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Amazon workers in Memphis are spooked as virus rages in south

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Amazon workers in Memphis are spooked as virus rages in south

Employees at an Amazon.com Inc. warehouse in Memphis, Tennessee, say the e-commerce giant erred in withdrawing unpaid leave and has failed to ensure their safety just as colleagues fall ill with COVID-19 and the surrounding region suffers an explosion in cases.

Workers at Amazon’s MEM1 facility say managers require them to continue working even when experiencing symptoms. In one case, a worker told human resources he had headaches, a runny nose and loss of smell and taste, according to four people familiar with the matter. The worker got tested that day but kept working for five days until the results came back positive, the people said.

In another instance, an Amazon employee training about two dozen new workers was pulled aside during a lunch break and told to go home because she had COVID-19, but those remaining weren’t immediately informed about their potential exposure, the people said.

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Earlier this year, about the time coronavirus cases began appearing at warehouses in New York, Pennsylvania and Minnesota, Amazon gave workers an extra US$2 an hour and let them take leave with no questions asked. But as states in the Northeast and Midwest appeared to be getting the virus under control, the company ended those short-term programs and required workers to apply for sick leave—a process some employees say has been plagued by confusion and delays.

Now that cases are exploding in Tennessee and other southern states, Amazon workers must show up for work or risk being fired. The Memphis workers say they get conflicting instructions, forcing them to make difficult decisions without clear guidance from the company. A key point of aggravation is being told […]

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