Read this story about Amazon employees battling the company’s robotic HR response to COVID

NBC News has published a great report about the struggles Amazon employees face in trying to get tested for COVID after the company stopped on-site testing last summer, and the HR swamp they could face in reporting their results or dealing with disease-related PTO. The story is well worth reading, as it explores Amazon’s policies and systems, and gives a voice to the employees they influence.

The report’s author spoke to workers who faced breakthrough cases and unexpected costs while trying to get tested for COVID, struggling with an overburdened and difficult-to-navigate healthcare system. “I really wish they would give us free COVID tests,” said one employee.

The story also shows the problems they may face if they test positive or start developing symptoms. Under an updated Amazon policy, Amazon employees should receive 40 hours of paid time off after a positive test or exposure. But many of those who spoke to NBC reported encountering problems or errors when trying to get free. One employee said the company’s “self-service-type HR system” seemed designed to “take people out of human resources a little bit.” That system has been criticized in the past for everything from underpaying employees to accidental firing.

But if the system is robotic, it appears to be faulty — employees told NBC News they found it nearly impossible to get help if they test positive, and spoke of systems incorrectly flagging them as using paid time off.

Contacting a real human isn’t much better. An employee quoted in the report told how the company’s phone lines were flooded: “I couldn’t reach a live person no matter how hard I tried.” She eventually spoke to someone in person about how to get tested after finding out that one of her close colleagues had COVID. A contractor who works at Amazon’s COVID-19 hotline told NBC News there were 1,700 calls on hold at one point.

The company told NBC that it is investigating reports of the leave issues and that it offers incentives and events to help employees get vaccinated.

If you’re interested in the story of how Amazon manages the health of its massive workforce, the report is: definitely worth reading. It provides a good insight into the results of Amazon’s workplace protection policies, which in some cases have sparked employee protests and legal pressure. Even if you’re not specifically interested in Amazon, you probably benefit from reading the words of the employees who deal with these systems, while also keeping Amazon’s packages moving.

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