On March 1st, an Amazon employee fell to his death in the warehouse in North Las Vegas. After speculation on the cause of his death, the Clark County coroner’s office proclaimed it a suicide.
After the police were called to handle the situation, all employees were sent home with pay to return the next day. The company also offered grief counseling to whoever wanted it.
“We’re deeply saddened by this tragic incident,” said Lisa Levandowski, an Amazon spokesperson, in an emailed statement. “Their family and loved ones are in our thoughts, and we’re supporting our employees during this difficult time.” 
However, incensed Amazon employees accuse the company of trying to cover up the situation.
Amazon Employees Sent Home After a Suicide
The death occurred early Monday morning; the police officers arrived just before 7 a.m. Later on, the coroner identified the man as 48-year-old Paul Vilscek. He died from “blunt or injury to the head, trunk, and extremities” as a result of his suicide.
One Amazon employee, who spoke anonymously to NBC News, said she came to work just after 7 a.m. She saw ambulances and police cars in the parking lot. Then staff members began setting up barricades around the area where the suicide occurred.
“Nobody knew what was going on,” she said. “Everyone was so confused.”
Meanwhile, supervisors told everyone to continue working. According to this testimony, they were only sent home at about 9:40 a.m.
“That really upsets me,” she said. “The managers knew what was going on and were going to the area but didn’t send us home immediately. Someone just passed away. It just proves to me that managers at Amazon don’t really care as long as they get their numbers done.” 
But she was not the only Amazon employee dissatisfied with the situation.
Amazon Employees Kept in the Dark
Another employee tweeted a screenshot of the text he received from Amazon the day of the incident. It read: “Hello Aviators, LAS7 experienced an incident that required day shift employees to be sent home. If you are night shift, please do NOT report to work tonight. All time for days and night shifts 3/1 will be paid. LAS7 does plan to open with regular business hours 3/2. Thank you and know we appreciate and value you.”
In the caption, he wrote, “The fact that someone committed suicide this morning in the amazon warehouse i work at and they’re trying to cover it up…. & continuing work tomorrow like nothing happened????”
The tweet has been deleted since he feared losing his job. He anonymously told Daily Dot that the employees received no other update on the situation since the above text.
According to this testimony, it took the supervisors three hours to send the workers home. (This creates a discrepancy between this timeframe and the 9:40 a.m. dismissal previously mentioned. This could potentially be due to the departments being sent home at different times.)
“It happened in the morning right before dayshift was starting at 7:45 a.m.,” he said. “The process assistants told the associates, while the managers didn’t mention a suicide at all. They also had only sent one department home at first [the department it happened in], but everyone else wasn’t sent home until 10:45 am.” 
Amazon’s Controversy During the Pandemic
However, this is only the most recent controversy among many that Amazon the company had found itself in.
In June of last year, warehouse employees sued the company for the unsafe conditions that put them at risk of contracting the coronavirus and spreading it to their families, including one member who died.
One of the three employers who filed the lawsuit, Barbara Chandler, got the virus in March while working at Amazon’s Staten Island distribution center. At that facility, employees “were explicitly or implicitly encouraged to continue attending work and prevented from adequately washing their hands or sanitizing their workstations.”
Less than a month later, Chandler’s cousin, who lived with her, died after displaying symptoms of the coronavirus.
Additionally, the plaintiffs accuse Amazon of “violating public nuisance and employee safety laws by providing workers misinformation and setting ‘oppressive and dangerous’ hourly quotas and discipline policies,” according to Bloomberg. They claim that Amazon only “sought to create a facade of compliance” while encouraging the opposite. According to the lawsuit, they had their workers “continue to work at dizzying speeds, even if doing so prevents them from socially distancing, washing their hands, and sanitizing their workspaces.” 
Amazon allegedly told their employees not to tell others if they contracted the virus. Additionally, they punished employees who complained about safety in the workplace. They even fired two workers allegedly because they publicly denounced the warehouses’ unsafe conditions during the pandemic. 
“Go Back to Work”
Nevertheless, this isn’t the first death at the Amazon warehouse. In September 2019, Billy Foister died from a heart attack while at work. He had lain on the floor for 20 minutes before Amazon’s safety responders came to help.
“How can you not see a 6ft 3in man laying on the ground and not help him within 20 minutes? A couple of days before, he put the wrong product in the wrong bin, and within two minutes, management saw it on camera and came down to talk to him about it,” said the deceased’s brother, Edward Foister.
After an ambulance took Foister to the hospital, the workers around him received no reprieve, not even the rest of the day off as in the case of the suicide.
“After the incident, everyone was forced to go back to work. No time to decompress,” said an Amazon employee on the same shift. “Basically watch a man pass away and then get told to go back to work, everyone, and act like it’s fine.” 
As a result, it’s no surprise that Amazon appeared on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s 2019 Dirty Dozen list of the most hazardous employers in the U.S. 
- “Amazon closes North Las Vegas warehouse for day after employee suicide.” Las Vegas Review Journal. Glenn Puit. March 2, 2021
- “Amazon worker died by suicide at Las Vegas facility.” NBC News. Olivia Solon and Cyrus Farivar. March 2, 2021
- “Amazon employees accuse company of trying to ‘cover up’ on-site suicide (updated).” Daily Dot. Bryan Rolli. March 3, 2021
- “Amazon Workers Sue Over Virus Brought Home From Warehouse.” Bloomberg. Josh Eidelson and Spencer Soper. June 3, 2020
- “Amazon fires two tech workers who criticized the company’s warehouse workplace conditions.” Washington Post. Jay Greene. April 15, 2020
- “’Go back to work’: outcry over deaths on Amazon’s warehouse floor.” The Guardian. Michael Sainato. October 28, 2019
- “The Dirty Dozen 2019.” National COSH.