Amazon could be shaming workers into not stealing products from its vast warehouses, according to a new report.
uses flat-panel televisions, or in some cases, bulletin boards, to highlight each morning the workers it needed to fire or have arrested for stealing products at its warehouses, Bloomberg is reporting, citing interviews with nearly a dozen current and former Amazon employees. Those employees told Bloomberg that Amazon posts silhouettes containing the word “terminated.” Amazon then details what those people stole and how they did it, according to the report. Amazon will even provide details on its value.
The e-commerce giant did not respond to a request for comment on the Amazon report.
Warehouse workers have long used anonymous services, such as Glassdoor.com, as well as protests, to fight Amazon’s treatment. Indeed, the company has been the subject of a slew of protests outside its warehousing facilities over the years, most notably in Germany, where workers tend to strike during peak holiday seasons in hopes of increasing wages. Each time, Amazon has said that its shipments would not be affected and that its workers are paid fairly for their jobs.
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A report from Mental Floss last year detailed several things that Amazon warehouse workers face during workdays. The news outlet spoke to one former Amazon employee, who says the company’s workers are not allowed to bring anything from outside into the warehouses, including smartphones. In addition, workers told Mental Floss that Amazon warehouses contain metal detectors.
Amazon hasn’t even been able to sidestep its security contractor. In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a class-action lawsuit filed against Amazon by former employees at the e-commerce giant’s security contractor Integrated Security Systems. In their complaint, the employees said that that they were “required to wait at least 10 to 15 minutes each day, and often more than a half hour, at the beginning and end of each shift without compensation whatsoever in order to undergo a search for contraband and/or pilferage of inventory.”
In December 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that the workers did not have their fair labor rights violated by engaging in those activities. Justice Clarence Thomas said at the time that their work was “integral and indispensable.”
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The case was an important victory for Amazon and other warehouse owners that need to be concerned about security. In fact, many security experts, including Integrated Security Systems, have argued that preventing warehouse theft is critical. Even Rutgers University has a Crime Prevention page that claims “the biggest threat to warehouses is collusion between two dishonest people—one inside the warehouse who is employed by you, and another person outside.” The University adds that the “warehouse is vulnerable in different ways at each step of the handling of merchandise.”
A study obtained by Inbound Logistics found that “cargo and warehouse-related theft” is well into the tens of billions of dollars worldwide.
With an ever-growing inventory of products, Amazon’s sprawling warehouses are potential targets. If the company is indeed using techniques described by former employees, it’s likely an attempt address that.
But ultimately, the question comes down to whether it’s right. In November 2011, a report surfaced in The Morning Call, claiming an Amazon warehouse had a fire alarm. But security staff, fearing it was a way for thieves to take stolen products outside, kept employees outside in freezing cold to ensure no theft had occurred. Amazon has since said that it has reformed such policies.
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Still, there’s an obvious question of how far theft detection should go. Amazon obviously cannot allow theft in its facilities, but determining what is too much can be difficult. One former employee was clear on his stance, telling Bloomberg that Amazon’s practices are “offensive.”
Of course, Amazon isn’t the only company that has been derided for its security tactics.
was hit in 2013 with a class-action lawsuit filed by thousands of employees who complained about the company’s policy of searching bags and iDevices before they left their shift each day. A U.S. court in November shot down the case, saying that Apple had made it clear that it would inspect those items as part of its theft-prevention activities. The court added that employees were not forced to bring those items to work and could therefore sidestep those searches.