CW: Death & Injuries:
Disability: IN, a nonprofit organization, presented its annual “Best Places to Work” Disability Equality Index on Tuesday. The index assesses how well companies prioritize and accommodate disabled people.
E-commerce giant Amazon was among the companies that received the highest score possible. In the past, Amazon has been the target of criticism regarding discrimination based on disability and other protected statuses, including pregnancy. Governor Kathy Hochul announced last May that a New York state agency accused Amazon of discriminating against pregnant and disabled workers at its workplaces in a complaint.
Amazon was also accused of having regulations that required employees to take unpaid leaves of absence even if they were physically capable of working, rather than providing reasonable accommodations. The New York State Division of Human Rights chastised Amazon for granting worksite managers the authority to disregard the company’s in-house “accommodation consultants,” who recommended that workers’ schedules or job duties be modified.
Besides Walmart, Amazon is the largest private employer in the United States. In New York alone, it employs about 39,000 people across 23 different work sites.
According to last year’s accusations, Amazon allegedly forced a pregnant worker to continue lifting packages weighing more than 25 pounds (11 kg) and then placed her on indefinite unpaid leave once she was injured. In addition, Amazon reversed recommendations to allow two disabled workers to vary their work schedules after their managers opposed the accommodations.
Other companies who received the highest possible rating included tobacco company Altria, which agreed in May to pay $235 million to settle hundreds of cases related to its Juul nicotine vapes, and Nestlé, which has been criticized because it engages in troubling labor practices, including child labor, in its supply chains.
Some airlines that frequently misplace or damage wheelchairs also received a perfect score. This past year, US Airlines damaged 11,389 wheelchairs and scooters. For wheelchair users, this damage is more than a minor inconvenience.
Wheelchairs are often custom-made to fit their users. An ill-fitting wheelchair can have devastating consequences. In 2021, Engracia Figueroa died after developing a pressure sore, which subsequently became infected. She developed the sore after using a wheelchair that was loaned to her after her wheelchair was damaged by United Airlines.
CVS Health, which received another perfect score, filed a petition with the Supreme Court, hoping for a finding that federal bans on disability discrimination didn’t extend to accidental prejudice. CVS, also the parent business of health insurance company Aetna, abandoned its case following advocacy from disability rights groups.
Inclusion needs to be more than a buzzword. Equal Employment Opportunity must be more than just a law; it must be widely practiced. All people should be able to find work, including disabled people.
Brooks, Laken. “Disability Advocate Engracia Figueroa Died after an Airline Damaged Her Wheelchair.” Forbes, 9 Nov. 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/lakenbrooks/2021/11/08/disability-advocate-engracia-figueroa-died-after-an-airline-damaged-her-wheelchair/?sh=722eb0f310d7.
Métraux, Julia. “Amazon Got a Perfect Score on Disability Inclusion-from a Group It Helps Fund.” Mother Jones, 14 July 2023, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2023/07/amazon-got-a-perfect-score-on-disability-inclusion-from-a-group-it-helps-fund/.
Stempel, Jonathan. “Amazon Discriminates against Pregnant and Disabled Workers, New York Alleges.” Reuters, 18 May 2022, http://www.reuters.com/markets/us/new-york-agency-accuses-amazon-pregnancy-disability-discrimination-2022-05-18/.
Sampson, Hannah. “Delta Unveils First Wheelchair-Friendly Seat.” The Washington Post, 14 June 2023, http://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/2023/06/06/delta-wheelchair-seat/.