Retail giant Amazon is facing accusations of mishandling an employee’s death at one of its facilities. Over the holidays, a man died during his shift at an Amazon warehouse in Colorado. Several viral social media posts allege that management stacked boxes around his corpse and had employees continue working mere feet away.
In a phone conversation with the Daily Dot on Wednesday, an Amazon spokesperson denied that staff used boxes to hide the man’s body. They also said that the area where he passed away was closed for several hours.
Colorado Springs police confirmed to a local CBS affiliate that 61-year-old Rick Jacobs died at a facility there just before his shift ended on Dec. 27. His death was reportedly due to a heart attack.
Allegations about how the facility handled Jacobs’ death have surfaced on multiple platforms in recent days. A post written by a purported employee of the facility claims that firetrucks, EMTs, and police were still on site when they arrived at work that morning.
“Not knowing why they were there, we all went in, clocked in and started to work,” it says. “That’s when we found out from a night shift employee (not from management) that someone had died and the person was still at the facility.”
It continues, “There were some employees who were less from 10ft from the deceased (who was covered) working. I cannot even begin to say how upset and angry I am at the disrespect for human life from Amazon….”
“Are you saying that you can’t even shut down the facility long enough to finish [an] investigation after a death? That money is so important that we were literally walking over a dead body to make you more money?”
Amazon denies that employees were working anywhere near Jacobs while the coroner and emergency personnel were on site, but concedes that work continued in other areas of the facility.
A person who identified themself as one of Jacobs’ colleagues told the Daily Dot that it took management hours to inform staff of his death. The employee, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution, also said that managers also discouraged people from spreading the news.
“No one was able to get answers,” they said in a direct message sent via Facebook.
Later that morning, they said a manager conceded that someone had died during the previous shift, but also told them that management itself wasn’t promptly informed of Jacobs’ passing.
“Later he told me that it sounded like on his end the situation wasn’t handled in a timely manner and that a lot of the senior managers were still in the dark [hours later],” they said.
Others who claim to work in the facility shared similar experiences.
“I literally clocked out minutes before this happened. People were talking about it all over Amazon but management and leadership were acting like it was god’s secret,” one wrote in a Facebook comment on KKTV’s story.
There are conflicting reports circulating about whether employees were allowed to take time off after. An Amazon spokesperson said that Jacobs’ coworkers who were present when he passed were offered paid leave and counseling. Others were offered unpaid time off, known as voluntary time off (VTO) in company parlance, they said.
A few have defended the warehouse for continuing work in the aftermath of Jacobs’ death, noting that due to the size of such facilities, work could continue in other areas and that many employees wouldn’t have been personally acquainted with him.
“The fact that y’all are expected to continue working is insane. Most other companies would send everyone home if a team member died in front of everyone. That’s traumatic af,” one redditor said.
A Facebook user in a group for Amazon employees said they weren’t surprised to hear of a worker dying during their shift. “The number of times people have passed out in my department, and we’re just supposed to work around them,” they wrote, “I sure as hell can imagine someone dying next to me and having to work.”
The worker who spoke to the Daily Dot said that the warehouse had required extremely long hours throughout the month of December and employees were exhausted.
“I assumed something would happen at some point. They were having us work six 10hr days a week for like four weeks,” they said.