Amazon driver tells EU lawmakers that drivers are lying about getting temperature checks over fears of being late

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Amazon driver tells EU lawmakers that drivers are lying about getting temperature checks over fears of being late
An activist Amazon driver testified to the European Parliament about how the company has managed its workers during the coronavirus pandemic.Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • An Amazon driver gave evidence to EU lawmakers on Tuesday about how the company has treated workers during the pandemic.
  • California-based contractor Adrienne Williams said drivers routinely report that they have had their temperatures checked even when they haven't, to avoid being late for shifts.
  • Williams also said as contract workers, drivers don't know when there are COVID-19 cases in the warehouses they visit at least twice daily.
  • Williams said she had not reported these issues directly to Amazon. Amazon has not commented on Wiliams' statements.

A US Amazon driver has gone on record saying drivers lie about having had their temperatures checked because if they don't, they think their jobs will suffer.

On Tuesday Leïla Chaibi, a French member of the European Parliament, interviewed three Amazon workers as part of an investigation into Amazon's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the people who spoke was Adrienne Williams, an Amazon driver based in Richmond, California who has also launched a worker activism group called Bay Area Amazonians.

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Williams is employed by a third-party contractor rather than Amazon directly.

She told Chaibi the way Amazon has set up its temperature check policies means drivers are lying about having their temperatures taken in order to get started with their day.

"Every driver every day lies about getting their temperature checked in order to get their routes," Williams told Chaibi.

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Speaking to Business Insider on Wednesday, Williams said that drivers come to Amazon's warehouses to get their delivery vehicle and start their working day.

At the same time, she said, drivers must pick up a device called a "rabbit" which assigns them their routes.

Once they've picked up the rabbit, their van keys, and hand sanitizer, drivers have to do a safety check of their vans, clock in, then drive to the warehouse to wait in line to pick up packages marked out for delivery.

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At that point, they have to load up a dedicated Amazon app on their rabbit, which asks: "Did you take your temperature today?" If the answer is no, the driver isn't allowed to proceed, she said.

The problem, according to Williams, is there is no one present to take drivers' temperatures when they are asked the question, and doing so would mean walking round to the other side of the building to where the warehouse workers have their temperatures scanned as they walk.

Doing so would mean being late to pick up their packages, which means in practice drivers are just hitting "yes" to avoid delays, she said.

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Williams told Business Insider she first encountered this system on June 11 when she returned to work after taking two months to home school her seven-year-old while schools were closed.

"When I started back on June 11, I wasn't familiar with this question so I hit no," she said.

According the Williams, the app then instructed her to "'Stop what you're doing. Get out of your van, go get your temperature checked.' And I realized, 'Oh shit, if I do that, I'm going to hang everybody else up,'" she said.

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Williams said she has spoken to other drivers who hit "yes" on the app even though they haven't had their temperatures checked. "We're caught between this rock and a hard place," she said.

"Every single group is lying about getting their temperature checked because we're on a time crunch," she continued. "And if we say that we didn't, that means every single one of us has to stop, walk all the way around to the opposite side of the warehouse — which is at least half a mile to the other side — go get your temperature checked, then walk all the way back around to the other side and hop in your van. That'll make you late."

She added: "Being late is a problem."

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Williams did not explain why a delay to starting a route may be an issue, or whether Amazon imposes any kind of penalty on drivers who fall behind on their routes. One driver did tell Business Insider in 2018 that they had been punished for arriving to work one minute late.

She told Business Insider she had not reported this to Amazon HR. She claimed that on a previous attempt to report an issue with her route, she had been told she couldn't report a problem directly to Amazon.

When contacted by Business Insider for comment, Amazon did not immediately respond for comment.

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Williams said drivers don't know if there are coronavirus cases in warehouses

Williams, like the vast majority of Amazon drivers, is a contractor rather than being directly employed by Amazon.

She told the European Parliament hearing this means she doesn't have access to a specialized Amazon employee portal called "A to Z," which is where Amazon puts up alerts when positive coronavirus cases are detected inside warehouses.

Williams said drivers visit the warehouses at least twice a day.

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"As a driver there's no way to know if there's ever been any reported cases in our warehouse, and likewise if any of the drivers get sick or test positive, there's no way for us to communicate that to the warehouse and the warehouse workers, yet we enter the warehouse twice a day every shift at least," Williams told Chaibi during Tuesday's hearing.

Williams also told Business Insider that she wipes down her van every day before starting, and said the vehicles are cleaned on a weekly basis.

Williams told Business Insider she is a severe asthmatic and lives with her seven-year-old daughter and 64-year-old mother. She said she is frightened by the prospect of a COVID-19 infection because she went into an ICU when she was 26. "This whole pandemic has just freaked me out," she said.

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