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Amazon lost in court

A former Amazon worker from Poland who had been dismissed due to a sick leave won her case on November 22, 2017. Another official reason for her dismissal was unjustified absence that had happened months before. The court found the dismissal unfounded. The verdict is not binding yet.

After more than a year since bringing the case to the Poznan Labor Court, the jury decided in favor of the former employee of Amazon Fulfillment Poland. It demands the reinstatement of the worker and expects Amazon to pay 4,850 PLN for the time of unemployment. Amazon also has to pay the cost of the court case.

The worker is a member of the trade union Inicjatywa Pracownicza. The union finds the verdict satisfactory as it criticizes the practice of contract termination on the base of absence. It says that Amazon misuses sick leaves and calls it a blatantly unjust practice. The union has addressed this issue since August 2016 under the slogan "Amazon employs? Amazon fires! "(link to the leaflet in Polish). It needs to be emphasized that the working conditions at Amazon are hard and the nature of the work itself may cause many injuries.

This is another example of legal proceedings ending up in favor of a worker who was sacked by Amazon. In March 2017, another employee who had also been dismissed due to her sick leave – signed an agreement with the company in court. On that basis Amazon paid her 5,500 PLN in compensation for the unlawful termination of her contract. She had no intention to work again for Amazon.

Other cases of workers who were sacked by Amazon due to their health problems are ongoing. According to Polish legal jurisdiction, it is possible to sack a worker only if repeated absences harm the employer’s essential interests. Additionally, employers have to prove that there is still a risk of further absences due to health problems of a particular worker at the time of the contract termination. This requires an individual approach to each employee. Amazon, on the contrary, only indicates the percentage of absences as the reason for the termination of a contract, and – according to the union – does not adequately prove that particular absences caused a reorganization involving additional costs. It has to be remembered that Amazon is currently employing about 10,000 permanent workers in Poland, and the company recruits temps through temporary agencies throughout the whole year, plus another 10,000 people before the Christmas peak on a one-month contract. In this context it is unjustified to claim that the absence of an individual warehouse worker caused by illness poses a threat to the company interests.

On top of this, there are cases when Amazon tries to justify the termination of a contract by pointing out unjustified absences that had taken place many months before. A worker being not aware of them before, is no longer able to recall the situation and deny the employer interpretation. That happened in the case described above. Such practice suggests that "if the company wants then it will find something against anyone and fire the person". On this ground, the Polish Supreme Court indicated that using a stale cause for terminating a labor contract is an abuse of the workers rights.

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