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Why Amazon's Discrimination Against an Employee With IBS Is Disturbing, but Not Surprising

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While I was reading the online news today, a story caught my eye. “A former Amazon employee who says she has a bowel condition accused the company of firing her for taking too many bathroom breaks.”

I live with Crohn’s disease and this brought back memories of when my supervisor got angry if I left my desk to use the facilities, even if it was urgent. I always had to ask first. She made my life a living “Hades” for months to the point where I’d come home crying. Both she and “Ms. O’s” manager had something in common: they just refused to be accommodating to both of us.

Upon reading the article further, the ex-employee did notify her manager that she has IBS and needed frequent bathroom breaks. Even if she didn’t get the doctor’s note right away, there’s no excuse for writing her up because she was honest about her condition when she started the job. The immediate supervisor should realize that no physician will drop what they’re doing because he wants a written note within an unrealistic time frame. In most instances, getting an appointment quickly is difficult because medical offices are usually booked months in advance.

Amazon’s actions are illegal according to the Americans With Disabilities Act passed in 1990. According to the Unum ADA Employer Handbook, “The law protects disabled employees from job discrimination. It applies to businesses with at least 15 workers on the payroll.” Under the ADA, “someone with a disability may request reasonable accommodations from their employer. The ADA defines reasonable accommodations as an adjustment that wouldn’t create “undue hardship” for the employer.  “Employers who fail to comply with the ADA’s guidelines run the risk of the U.S. Department of Justice suing them in federal court. First-time offenders face civil penalties of up to $75,000. They can face $110,000 on subsequent violations.”

Something should’ve been done about “B” since she was making it her mission to get rid of me. Even when I had to miss work due to ostomy surgery and a DVT, I was still written up. My yearly evaluation was falsified, stating that I had  “not met department expectations, plus I missed too many days of work.” Unfortunately, the director sided with her so I didn’t have anything/anybody to support my claim that the administrative assistant was violating the ADA, as it was their word against mine. My Crohn’s acted up due to the underlying stress I experienced for months. I can only imagine the amount Ms. “O” had to endure when her supervisor gave her grief for leaving her workstation many times.

As for Amazon’s reasoning of lost gross wages (aka profit), I felt that it’s a very vindictive way to get back at the plaintiff because of her condition. The company needs to educate themselves on the ADA as well as instruct management that what just happened recently is a wake-up call not only for them, but for other businesses as well. Some organizations may think that they are invincible and can do as they please to their laborers who have chronic health issues and need special accommodations. What they don’t realize is this: it costs nothing to abide by the law, but they can end up paying huge fines and lawsuits for breaking it.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Originally published: August 24, 2021
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