Australian Amazon workers describe conditions
Saying they are watched closely for speed among other things, employees at Amazon's Australian fulfillment centre describe their working life.
The executive assistant to one of Amazon's top Australian bosses says she was sacked for asking to work flexible hours so she could pick up her children from school while her husband was in hospital, and is now suing the e-commerce giant.
Rachel Shafner started work for Amazon in September 2017, and claims the world's second most valuable company assured her the role would be flexible to accommodate her looking after two young children.
Her parental duties increased in March 2018 when her husband became ill and required long stints in hospital, meaning Ms Shafner needed to pick up and drop off her children from school and day care.
In an application filed in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne, Ms Shafner said Amazon issued her a formal warning in late May for unexplained absences caused by her husband's illness.
On August 2, Ms Shafner made a formal application for a flexible working arrangement that would see her leave work at 3pm to collect her children, and then continue to work from home to complete her daily hours and any outstanding tasks.
"I would much rather work as best as possible than have to take [carer's] leave for an unknown period of time due to my family obligations", the request said.
At the time, Ms Shafner was a few weeks from being employed by Amazon for a year, which would have entitled her to request flexible work conditions.
Ms Shafner, who had also worked for Amazon through an agency for three years prior to her direct employment, said that she followed up her request with an email on August 20 to her boss, Amazon Australia's director of operations Robert Bruce, who said he would get back to her as soon as he could.
But instead, Ms Shafner said she was taken into a meeting and told her role would no longer exist because of a "restructure".
On September 5, Amazon told her there were no alternative positions available in the company and her employment was terminated that day.
Ms Shafner's court application says Amazon broke the law by sacking her for proposing to exercise a workplace right by taking carer's leave, while also coercing her into not taking leave or requesting flexible work by giving her a formal warning for her prior absences.
"[Amazon] knew that [Ms Shafner] would likely request paid carer's leave in the event a flexible working arrangement was not implemented. [Amazon] knew that [Ms Shafner] would become entitled to request a flexible working arrangement... by about 4 September. The applicant's employment was terminated on 5 September."
Amazon also discriminated against Ms Shafner because of her family and care responsibility, the application says.
Ms Shafner is seeking $274,815 in compensation for three years' lost income, superannuation and share allocations, plus compensation for distress, humiliation, suffering and pain.
An Amazon spokeswoman said: "these allegations are untrue. As this matter is before the court, we are unable to comment further".
The case is set for a directions hearing on January 31.
The e-commerce company, whose founder Jeff Bezos is the world's richest person with a wealth of $160 billion according to Forbes, opened its Australian retail operations just over a year ago and is running large "fulfillment centres" in Melbourne and Sydney.