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Amazon retaliated after employee walkout over the return-to-office policy, NLRB lawyers say

Illustration showing Amazon’s logo on a black, orange, and tan background, formed by outlines of the letter “A.”
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint against Amazon in Seattle that alleges the company “unlawfully disciplined and terminated an employee” after they assisted in organizing walkouts last May in protest of Amazon’s new return-to-work directives, issued early last year.

In February 2023, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy sent an email to the company’s staff outlining new return-to-work guidelines. Previously, individual teams within the company could decide where employees were expected to work, but Jassy’s email revealed that starting on May 1st, 2023, most Amazon employees were expected to work from the office at least three days per week. (Some roles, such as salespeople and customer support, were exempted.)

In response, thousands of Amazon employees signed petitions against the new mandate and staged a walkout several months later. Despite the protests and pushback, according to a report by Insider, in a meeting in early August 2023, Jassy reaffirmed the company’s commitment to employees returning to the office for the majority of the week.

The NLRB complaint alleges Amazon “interrogated” employees about the walkout using its internal Chime system. The employee was first put on a performance improvement plan by Amazon following their organizing efforts for the walkout and later “offered a severance payment of nine weeks’ salary if the employee signed a severance agreement and global release in exchange for their resignation.”

According to the NLRB’s lawyers, all of that was because the employee engaged in organizing, and the retaliation was intended to discourage “…protected, concerted activities.”

The name of the employee in the NLRB complaint is redacted. Last year, The Seattle Times profiled one of the walkout organizers, who was — after the walkout — put on a performance improvement plan that the paper describes as “known for being nearly impossible to escape.” A detail describing how investigators questioned this particular person over allegedly encouraging other employees “to be angry at Amazon” is mentioned both in the complaint and in the article.

The NLRB’s general counsel is seeking several different forms of remediation from Amazon, including reimbursement for the employee’s “financial harms and search-for-work and work related expenses,” a letter of apology, and a “Notice to Employees” that must be physically posted at the company’s facilities across the country, distributed electronically, and read by an Amazon rep at a recorded videoconference. The contents of the “Notice to Employees” was not specified.

Amazon responded to the NLRB’s complaint today, and Brad Glasser, an Amazon spokesperson, shared the following statement with The Verge:

“The facts of this situation are clear and have nothing to do with whether this former employee opposed our return-to-office guidance. She consistently underperformed over a period of nearly a year and repeatedly failed to deliver on projects she was assigned. Despite extensive support and coaching, the former employee was unable to improve her performance and chose to leave the company.”

If Amazon and the employee do not settle, a hearing is planned with an NLRB Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in Seattle on February 4th, 2025.