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Legal Tracker

Amazon Pays Workers to Leave

10/4/2018 | Articles


        Recently the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, issued a letter to shareholders in which Mr. Bezos discussed an innovative way in which Amazon deals with unhappy employees at one of Amazon’s order fulfillment centers. Once a year, Amazon offers those employees the ability to leave their job if they are unhappy with the job for any reason. If the offer is accepted in the first year, Amazon will pay the unhappy employee $2,000.00. The offer goes up $1,000.00 per year to a maximum of $5,000.00. The offer is publicized annually with the headline: “Please don’t take this offer.”

        What could Amazon be thinking? Mr. Bezos stated that Amazon wants its employees to think about their careers and if they are in a job where they do not want to be, it is not healthy for employees or the company for unhappy employees to stay. While that sounds like a generous offer focused on creating a utopian workplace, there are other benefits to the policy that may be more tangible. Amazon implemented the policy after several legal battles with its fulfillment center employees about overtime and other work issues, and the policy may have strategic implications.

        While it may seem strange on its face, the “offer” could give Amazon an interesting defense in litigation with disgruntled former employees. Take a typical situation for any employer: the employer lays off an employee who is at best average in his performance. The employee then sues the employer claiming that he was harassed and subjected to unfair conditions during his employment — claims that the employee never raised while employed. An employee who testifies as to the horrible working conditions he allegedly faced certainly will have to explain why, if he was so unhappy, he did not accept the “offer.” Is it a bulletproof defense? No, but it is another argument to “chip away” at the credibility of an employee who seeks to rewrite his work history in a courtroom. In addition, employees who accept the “offer” sign a release of all claims against the employer. There may be some method to Amazon’s madness after all.