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Amazon sued by family of deceased employee claiming wrongful death and discrimination

(GeekWire Photo)

Relatives of a deceased Amazon employee are suing the Seattle company, claiming its negligence led to his wrongful death.

The family of Ronald Ashley filed a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court, alleging that Amazon’s failure to provide disability compensation and other contractually-mandated benefits led to Ashley’s death. The 53-year-old died of a heart attack on Nov. 28, 2016, at his home in Bellevue, Wash., according to the lawsuit.

“This neglect and inefficiency reflect the bureaucratic mess at Amazon as a result of the company’s rapid expansion,” the complaint says. “Due to its fast development, this corporate gargantuan is unable to keep pace with imperative requests made by its employees, with essential requests being overlooked.”

An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the pending litigation as a matter of policy but said, “Amazon follows all federal, state, and local laws.”

Here’s how the complaint describes the series of events that led up to Ashley’s death:

Ashley was hired in 2015 as a Senior Human Resources Business Analyst.

In 2016, Ashley disclosed that he had HIV and other medical issues that caused him to use the restroom and change clothes frequently. His doctor recommended he work from home for a month or two until the latter issue abaited.

A few weeks later, Ashley fell getting out of the shower, suffering an injury that rendered him disabled. At that point, Ashley asked for a leave of absence and benefits under Amazon’s Short-Term Disability Plan.

Ashley’s request was granted between February to May 2016, at which point Amazon said there wasn’t sufficient medical documentation to continue providing the benefits. Ashley appealed several times and asked to work from home, requests Amazon denied.

The denials caused Ashley to go into a “crippling depression” exacerbating his medical issues.

Amazon allegedly lost Ashley’s final appeal for disability benefits and didn’t find it until five months after his death.

Although Ashley had serious medical issues, he was not terminally ill, said Michael Kapin, the attorney representing the plaintiffs. “When his doctors found out he passed away, they were shocked,” Kapin told GeekWire.

Kapin filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court because that is where Ashley’s sibling, a key plaintiff, is based.

Amazon has come under fire for its treatment of workers in recent years but the criticism is typically aimed at warehouse conditions. Ashley’s case is unusual because he held a corporate position as a technologist working in human resources.

Kapin said that Ashley’s relatives are “grief-stricken” and “in shock to discover that this could happen to an employee.”

“They are looking, one, to be made whole for their loss but, more importantly, they’re looking to make sure another family doesn’t go through what they’ve gone through,” he said.

Read the full complaint below.

Editor’s note: This story has been edited to correct the deceased’s name.

Mary Gipson et al v. Amazon by GeekWire on Scribd



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