Amazon is flourishing during the COVID-19 pandemic as people turn to online shopping for supplies. But, Nevada authorities are investigating the company after insiders say employees are getting sick and management is slow with revealing details.
In a massive, 2.4 million square foot facility near Sloan and Tropical Parkway in Las Vegas, hundreds of Amazon employees file in and help the behemoth internet company deliver everything from above ground swimming pools to toothbrushes.
In a public relations videoes, Amazon has touted the steps the company is taking to combat the spread of COVID-19. The precautions include employee temperature checks, mandatory mask-wearing, routine building cleaning, and social distancing for employees.
But several Amazon employees are speaking out about their safety.
“Some people aren’t even following [those precautions], and furthermore, in the break room, there’s a lot of people, and it’s hard for us not to come into contact with each other because we are right next to each other,” said one insider who spoke on a condition of anonymity.
The same insider fears retaliation for revealing details.
She believes the company, which brought in about $280 billion in 2019, has been slow to reveal new cases of COVID-19 among Amazon employees.
“We were concerned already because we are in a warehouse, and there are so many people and we don’t know where [the new cases] are coming from or who has [COVID-19],” she said.
The trouble started in March when word began to spread among employees of possible illness. At the time, the company allowed for unlimited, unpaid time off for employees.
The insider says management otherwise downplayed the presence of the illness among employees.
“Pretty much don’t worry about it, and they told us it wasn’t in our warehouse, it was in another, and it’s all just a rumor,” she said.
But as weeks went by, the company acknowledged cases among employees.
An Amazon spokesperson confirmed a case at a “North Las Vegas facility” on April 24.
The company operates several large warehouses scattered around Southern Nevada, and insiders say concerns spread even more among employees about the exact location of the confirmed case.
In fact, an internal email revealed that the company’s public relations team deemed local news reports about the situation as “inaccurate,” adding the positive case was at a facility internally dubbed “LAS 2” and at the time, no reported cases at the facility named “LAS 7.”
The email instructed employees to disregard news stories, and management would “hopefully report new cases before it hits the news.”
The company told employees the facility had been “deep cleaned” in accordance with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
In response to a request for comment, Amazon’s public relations representatives released generic statements that did not include specific locations or confirmed cases.
“We are supporting the individuals who are recovering. Our top concern is ensuring the health and safety of our employees, and we invested approximately $4 billion from April to June on COVID-related initiatives to get products to customers and keep employees safe,” Lisa Guinn, an Amazon spokesperson, said. “This includes spending more than $800 million in the first half of the year on COVID-19 safety measures, with investments in personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning of our facilities, less efficient process paths that better allow for effective social distancing, higher wages for hourly teams, and developing our own COVID-19 testing capabilities.”