Minnesota warehouse workers employed by Amazon may be facing unsafe work environments.
A recent report by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) found that Amazon warehouse workers in Minnesota were twice as likely to suffer a work-related injury than other warehouse workers in the state. The report analyzed data from Amazon’s own records and found that the rate of injury equated to one injury for every nine workers each year—more than double the rate at non-Amazon Minnesota warehouses. In 2020, no industry in Minnesota had a higher average injury rate than the Shakopee Amazon fulfillment center.
How policy can affect worker safety
The report suggests that chief among the factors contributing to the company’s “extreme rates of injury”, are working conditions and company policy.
Workers work at a relentless pace, get few breaks and are subject to surveillance and unforgiving disciplinary policies. Workers are also monitored intently for any time off task, such as using the bathroom.
Due to the physical nature of warehouse work, the relentless pace of work could be putting workers at undue risk for injury.
Independent contractors and workers’ compensation
The unusually high rate of injury was not the only questionable practice the report exposed. Among other labor issues, Amazon classifies a great percentage of their workforce as independent contractors.
Typically contractors are not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, Amazon workers may have an argument that their responsibilities are more lined up with a traditional employee. There are five factors that determine whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor.
The report calls for an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation on Amazon’s facilities. The state should also establish standards for subcontracted workers and ask for transparency in the company’s termination practices.
Unfortunately, while the state may set guidelines, it often falls onto workers to advocate for their rights. Injured workers seeking fair compensation can contact the workers compensation attorneys of Atkinson Gerber Law Office for answers to specific questions.