An Amazon Driver Was Told She Would Be Fired If She Didn't Continue Delivering Packages Despite Tornado Warnings: Report
'Keep delivering,' the supervisor ordered. 'We can't just call people back for a warning unless Amazon tells us to.'
Approximately 80 minutes before a tornado destroyed an Edwardsville, Illinois Amazon warehouse on Dec. 10, a delivery driver and her supervisor exchanged a series of text messages that capture a chaotic, increasingly dangerous situation, Bloomberg reports.
"Radio's going off," the driver wrote in a text reviewed by the outlet. "Keep delivering," the supervisor ordered. "We can't just call people back for a warning unless Amazon tells us to."
When the driver suggested she return to the base for her own safety, the supervisor threatened her employment, saying, "If you decide to return with your packages, it will be viewed as you refusing your route, which will ultimately end with you not having a job come tomorrow morning. The sirens are just a warning."
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A person familiar with the situation said the texts between the driver and her supervisor are authentic. According to this same person, the driver was about 30 miles away from a group of Amazon facilities in Edwardsville at the time of the exchange and was based out of a delivery station across the highway from the warehouse that was ultimately destroyed by the tornado.
Six Amazon workers were confirmed dead after the tornado hit the Edwardsville facility, tearing off its roof and bringing down its 11-inch thick concrete walls. Workers who took shelter in a designated safe zone survived while those who were trapped on the other side of the building lost their lives. The tragedy has fueled debate over the tech giant's alleged mishandling of dangerous situations in the past, but the company maintains it followed standard safety protocols.
"This was a developing situation across a broad geographic area, and unfortunately the delivery-service partner's dispatcher didn't follow the standard safety practice," Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement to Bloomberg. According to Nantel, the dispatcher should have instructed the driver to seek shelter after the driver reported hearing tornado sirens, and during the text exchange, "the local Amazon team was ensuring each delivery-service partner had directed their drivers to shelter in place or seek shelter and advised them to stop delivering for the evening.... Under no circumstance should the dispatcher have threatened the driver's employment, and we're investigating the full details of this incident and will take any necessary action."
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Amazon hasn't responded to Entrepreneur's request for further comment at this time.