• Amazon fired two internal critics of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was revealed by The Washington Post on Monday. Another employee was told not to show up to work.
  • “We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies,” a spokesperson told Business Insider. We terminated these employees for repeatedly violating internal policies.”
  • Prior to the news, many Amazon employees had requested anonymity when discussing conditions in their workplace, fearing retaliation.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Amazon fired two employees who had been critical of the company’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, especially with regards to the company’s warehouse workers, according to reports, a third employee was told not to return to work.

Speaking to The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, user-experience designer Emily Cunningham said she and another designer, Maren Costa, were let go last week on Friday. The New York Times later confirmed that a third worker, Chris Hayes, was told not to come back to work.

The three had been involved in inviting employees a virtual chat between Amazon tech and warehouse workers, The Times said, adding that Costa and Cunningham had circulated a petition on internal channels in March regarding warehouse labor practices related to the pandemic.

Cunningham and Costa were also openly critical of Amazon’s climate policy, The Post said.

“We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider. “We terminated these employees for repeatedly violating internal policies.”

In late January of this year, Amazon employees protested Amazon’s climate policies and its external communications policy. The protest was in part due to the fact that Costa and another employee were threatened with termination for speaking out, according to CNBC.

At that time spokesperson Jaci Anderson told CNBC: “While all employees are welcome to engage constructively with any of the many teams inside Amazon that work on sustainability and other topics, we do enforce our external communications policy and will not allow employees to publicly disparage or misrepresent the company or the hard work of their colleagues who are developing solutions to these hard problems.”

Cunningham, who did not immediately return a request for comment, told The Post she was fired for her activism.

“Because of how effective we’ve been in getting Amazon to take leadership in the climate crisis, they’ve wanted me gone for a while,” she said.

On Twitter, she also criticized the company’s treatment of warehouse employees. “It’s bad y’all,” her pinned tweet reads.

Numerous Amazon employees have reached out to Business Insider claiming that their safety is not the top priority in the company’s warehouses and delivery stations, all requesting anonymity for fear of retaliation.

—kate conger (@kateconger) April 14, 2020

Amazon has declined to provide Business Insider a list of its facilities that have reported cases of COVID-19, only confirming the infections after employees leak word to members of the media. 

In response, Amazon has said they are supporting infected workers and “following guidelines from health officials and medical experts, and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of employees at our site.”

While the company has taken steps to protect its workforce amid the pandemic, instituting temperature checks and issuing protective equipment, employees still complain that they are not always provided face masks, nor are they able to maintain proper social distance. Experts have also questioned Amazon’s effort to build a COVID-19 test lab, fearing it could increase competition for scarce testing resources.

Last week, one employee at an Amazon facility outside Philadelphia told Business Insider that workers started “freaking out” after receiving an automated message that one of their colleagues had been diagnosed with COVID-19. The company later confirmed that 15 employees immediately walked off the job.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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