In one of the San Francisco Bay Area's busy warehouses, a pregnant Amazon warehouse worker suffered a miscarriage after the company's human resources denied her pregnancy accommodations.
Pattey Hernandez, a 23-year-old who worked as a packer at Amazon's OAK4 facility in Tracy, California, was seven weeks pregnant before losing the pregnancy last October. Hernandez told Motherboard she felt the sudden urge to use the bathroom. After rushing across the warehouse, she discovered blood in her pants.
Leading up to the incident, Hernandez had pleaded with the warehouse's manager and human resources department for lighter duty. She had submitted a doctor's note requesting pregnancy accommodations, which was denied.
The note, obtained by Motherboard, had stated that Hernandez not lift, push, pull, or carry anything over 20 pounds, as well as no walking or standing for more than 50 percent of her work shift. Partaking in these actions can increase the chance of miscarriage, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Hernandez's job as a packer required frequent lifting of bins filled with merchandise that weighed upon to 50 pounds.
Human resources had denied Hernandez doctor's note, which she said the representative told her "there was no specific area for light work that wouldn't require over 15 pounds of lifting, or for me to be off my feet."
Hernandez added that after the denial, her manager was asking why she was taking longer and sitting more frequently, despite knowing that she was pregnant.
"My manager wasn't accommodating," Hernandez told Motherboard. "He was on me, asking, 'Why is your rate so low, why are you spending so much time in the bathroom, why is your [time off task] more than ten minutes?' We were only allowed 10 minutes of time off task each day, but the warehouse is so big. It takes six minutes just to get to the bathroom and back."
According to Motherboard, time off task is an Amazon metric that measures worker productivity through calculating the frequently they scan packages at their workstations. Hernandez was allowed 10 minutes of time off task per day.
After discovering that she was bleeding, Hernandez went home, telling her manager she may be miscarrying and in a medical emergency. Amazon stated in a letter obtained by Motherboard that Hernandez was denied medical leave because she had not worked enough hours.
"You are not eligible for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act because you have not worked 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months. You have worked approximately 841.57 hours," states the letter dated October 26, 2020.
Hernandez was forced to resign from Amazon after running out of personal time off, and Amazon didn't respond to two pending requests for California Pregnancy Disability and a medical leave of absence.
Hernandez's nurse confirmed the miscarriage one week later during an ultrasound. "I went to the doctor and they couldn't detect a heartbeat," she said. According to Motherboard her fiancé confirmed the details of her story.
"It all took a very emotional toll on me. I never imagined this would happen to me. I would cry every day," said Hernandez.
According to Motherboard, at least seven pregnancy discrimination lawsuits were filed against Amazon from 2011 to 2019, with workers saying that they were denied similar accommodation requests as Hernandez. Amazon has a concerning track record relating to the treatment of their workers.
"The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 says that an employer has to accommodate pregnant employees only if it is already doing so for other employees who are 'similar in their ability or inability to work,'" wrote Motherboard, who states that it is often legal for companies to deny lighter duty to pregnant workers. Hernandez started working a few weeks into the pandemic after her family's Mexican restaurant and food trucks were forced to close.
"I was mostly aware of the positives," Hernandez said. "I had two cousins working there. They said it's so fun. You work four days a week. They made it sound like the place to work. In my perspective, I feel like they don't care about you no matter what you're going through. It's very hard to miscarry because they don't want to accommodate you."