A mom told Jeff Bezos that Amazon was underpaying her $90 a month, sparking an internal probe that found the company was shortchanging some workers, a report says


Jeff Bezos

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Alex Wong/Getty Images

  • An Amazon worker on leave emailed Jeff Bezos to tell him she was being underpaid.

  • A subsequent investigation revealed Amazon was systematically underpaying some workers on leave.

  • A spokesperson told The New York Times Amazon was still identifying underpaid workers.

An email sent to Jeff Bezos from an Amazon worker who was on leave triggered an internal investigation that exposed flaws with the company’s payroll system, The New York Times reports.

Tara Jones, an Oklahoma Amazon warehouse worker, emailed Bezos in 2020 telling him she was being underpaid $90 out of $540 she was supposed to get a month, per The Times. She had a newborn baby at the time, The Times reported.

“I’m behind on bills, all because the pay team messed up,” Jones wrote in her email per the Times, adding, “I’m crying as I write this email.”

The Times interviewed Amazon staff and reviewed internal documents that showed Amazon subsequently discovered it was shortchanging some employees who were on leave, including medical and disability leave. The problems spanned at least a year and a half, and potentially affected as many as 179 warehouses.

An Amazon spokesperson told The Times the company was still in the process of identifying workers it had underpaid.

One of those workers, a warehouse worker from Tennessee called James Watts, told The Times his disability payments stopped for several months in Spring. Watts told The Times his car was repossessed and that he and his wife sold their wedding rings.

Current and former HR employees also told The Times that workers facing medical problems were automatically fired by Amazon’s attendance software after it mistook their leave for absence.

Bethany Reyes, an Amazon HR employee who has recently been charged with fixing the company’s leave system, told The Times the company was trying to rebalance its mantra of “optimizing” for the customer.

“A lot of times, because we’ve optimized for the customer experience, we’ve been focused on that,” Reyes said. She added the company is working to address “pain points” and “pay issues.” She also said the automatic firings were “the most dire issue that you could have.”

Amazon did not immediately respond when contacted by Insider for comment on the report.

In a letter to shareholders last year, Bezos boasted that the lowest paid Amazon worker makes more than 40 million people in the US.

Bezos stepped down as CEO of Amazon on July 5, 2021 and was replaced by long-time executive Andy Jassy. Bezos remains chair of the company.

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