Amazon Accused of Expanding Charity Work Program to Mask Injury Rate

The retailer is facing allegations that the program hides the true rate of injuries at its warehouses, according to the Financial Times.

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Andrew Blok has been an editor at CNET covering HVAC and home energy, with a focus on solar, since October 2021. As an environmental journalist, he navigates the changing energy landscape to help people make smart energy decisions. He's a graduate of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State and has written for several publications in the Great Lakes region, including Great Lakes Now and Environmental Health News, since 2019. You can find him in western Michigan watching birds.
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Amazon data analyzed by the Strategic Organizing Center shows an increase in "light duty" injuries in recent years.

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Amazon is expanding its program that allows injured workers to do light-duty work for nonprofits and charities, the Financial Times reported Thursday. The voluntary program keeps Amazon employees fully paid while doing light work at food pantries, thrift stores and other charities. 

Advocates for workers rights say the program hides the true toll of injuries at Amazon's warehouses because it allows the company to say injuries resulted in a shift to light duty, rather than lost time, according to the Financial Times. 

The lost-time metric is "politically sensitive" and highlights more serious incidents at Amazon warehouses, reported the Financial Times. Data reported by Amazon and analyzed by labor union coalition the Strategic Organizing Center shows an increase in "light duty" injuries in recent years.

More than 10,000 employees have been placed at charities and nonprofits since the program, Amazon Community Together, was started in 2016, according to the report.

"The program allows employees to keep getting paid their regular hourly wage and keep their paid time off or sick leave to use when they need it -- all while helping others and giving back to their community," Lisa Campos, an Amazon spokesperson, said in an email to CNET. "The program is voluntary, and the feedback we hear from participating employees and local nonprofits is overwhelmingly positive."

There are currently more than 100 employees in the program and 1,000 have participated since its relaunch in mid-2021 after being interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Campos said. 

Amazon regularly faces criticism for its working conditions. The company has faced allegations of, among other things, faulty emergency proceduresinsufficient precautions around COVID-19 and inadequate bathroom breaks for workers. Employees in Staten Island, New York, earlier this month voted to become the first unionized Amazon warehouse in the US. The company has since called for a revote.