Amazon is a powerhouse company that was first known as “the world’s biggest bookstore.” It has since been given the title of America’s largest retailer (online or off) employing nearly 240,000 people worldwide. Therefore, it is not surprising that Amazon has become a large employer in Minnesota since opening a fulfillment center in Shakopee. The Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minnesota is a giant warehousing and shipping facility, which will employ upwards of 1,000 workers. This is great news in terms of local job creation but also brings with it a host of other concerns. Amazon has been accused of mistreating its warehouse employees in a variety of ways, including in the realm of workplace injuries.
Most of the positions available at the new Shakopee warehouse will be for “fulfillment associates”, a position that requires employees to compete against one another by filling online shoppers’ purchases. This position requires employees to work as fast as they can for as much as ten hours at a time. Each fulfillment associate’s performance will be monitored closely and if the associate’s pace is deemed to be too slow, he or she will be terminated. Many of these positions will offer no job security and carry a very serious risk of injury. This is particularly concerning because of Amazon’s history where the safety standards of their warehouse employees have been questioned with its responsibilities under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
Thousands of employees in Minnesota work in manufacturing, construction, and warehouses, which requires the operation of heavy machinery and exposes workers to the risk of serious injury, even including death. For example, warehouse employees, including those working in Amazon fulfillment centers, are required to repeatedly lift heavy objects, operate forklifts, pallet jacks and other tools. This can cause ergonomic injuries to the back, neck, shoulders or knees over the course of time. Injuries referred to as “slip and trip” injuries are common in warehouses due to the presence of loose material such as sawdust, and liquid or boxes on the floor. Fall injuries are also fairly common because employees frequently work on raised platforms. In addition, in 2014 a Boston workers’ compensation attorney posted an article on their blog site stating that according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), two workers were killed within a 6 month timeframe while on the job. In December of 2013, a man was crushed to death at an Amazon fulfillment center after getting caught in a machine while sorting packages. Less than six months later, a woman working at an Amazon warehouse operating a power jack was died when boxes fell on her.
Despite what Amazon, or any other employer may tell you, when you sustain an injury on the job (serious or otherwise) your employer has certain responsibilities, including a duty to report the injury to the appropriate workers’ compensation office. It is very important that you report any injury that occurs at the work place because this will protect your potential benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act. A compensable workers’ compensation injury could be a knee injury after slipping or falling on the job or could be an onset of neck or back pain from repetitive lifting or bending without any specific incident.
If you sustain an injury on the job, it is important that you contact an attorney who is knowledgeable in the area of workers’ compensation. Unfortunately, your employer will not always give you full and accurate information about the workers’ compensation system and the benefits to which you may be entitled. For example, according to a 2011 article by LawyersandSettlements.com, one strategy that Amazon has tried to implement in an effort avoid workers’ compensation liability is hiring a third party staffing agency, such as Integrity Staffing Solutions (ISS). By doing this, Amazon claims it is not the injured person’s employer instead ISS is the employer, and therefore Amazon is not liable for the injured worker’s wage loss or medical benefits. Whether Amazon would actually be considered your employer for purposes of workers’ compensation depends upon the unique facts of your case. But either way, your eligibility for wage loss, medical benefits and rehabilitation assistance under the Workers’ Compensation Act would remain the same.
Meuser Law Office, P.A. has handled thousands of workers’ compensation cases in the state of Minnesota, including warehouse injury claims. If you have been injured on the job, call Meuser Law Office, P.A. for a free no-obligation consultation to understand your rights. We can explain what rights you have and make recommendations to you in terms of how to best protect your rights to those benefits. The knowledgeable attorneys at Meuser Law Office, P.A. can help make the process easier to navigate. Call us today at 1-877-746-5680.