Hyderabad: The Amazon Development Center in Hyderabad has terminated the services of one of its senior operations managers for raising a red flag against alleged violation of labour laws with respect to the company's working hours.
The Amazon employee, 31-year-old Vijay Gopal R, is a Hyderabad-based activist and is responsible for several path-breaking reforms from regulation of school and college fees to free parking. He is the founder of the Forum against Corruption, an independent body that keeps an eye on graft.
However, Vijay's four-year journey with Amazon, where he served as an L5 operations manager, came to an end on 27 November when he received a letter of termination.
Speaking to NewsMeter, he said, "I received an email stating that I have a meeting with the human resource manager. While I was still on the call, I received an email with the subject 'termination letter' but it didn't specify any grounds for termination. The company sacked me under employee clause (12.1) of the organisation. When I asked if this had anything to do with my complaint, I didn't receive any answer." He was paid one-month salary and asked to sign the termination letter.
The termination letter in position with the Correspondent reads, 'Amazon invokes clause 12.1 of the Contract and hereby terminates your employment with Amazon with immediate effect, i.e. close of working hours of 27th November 2020. Your full and final settlement and one month's salary in lieu of notice period will be paid in full on or before 11th December 2020. Please take notice that your Contract stands terminated and you cease to be the employee of Amazon with effect from close of working hours of 27th November 2020. We take this opportunity to remind you that clause 9 of the Contract relating to non-solicitation survives the termination and shall remain binding on you. The said clause is extracted below for your convenience.'
Complaint against Amazon's working hours
In 2019, Vijay had filed a complaint with the commissioner, Telangana department of labour, against Amazon alleging violation of employees' rights. In his complaint, Vijay said, "Since February 2017, I found the company was violating the Shops and Establishment Act 1988, that is, the Amazon Development Center is calculating weekly hours excluding break, overtime hours (up to 20 hours a week)."
Vijay alleged that all employees working for more than 48 hours were not being paid overtime irrespective of the designation. He explained, "Per day an employee works nine hours (including a one-hour break/lunch), i.e. 45 hours a week. However, at the time of employment, it shows 40 hours a week. Employees are being asked to work overtime for more than 15 hours a week (up to 20 hours) claiming that they have permission from the government."
However, the legal team at Amazon has refuted the allegation and claimed their calculation is right and that they are well within the guidelines of the law by excluding the break hours from the weekly hours worked while calculating OT.
In contrary to Amazon's claim, an RTI response from the labour commission revealed that the hours of the week are required to be calculated including the break/lunch hour. The RTI said, "No exception has been given to any employer to allow their employees to work overtime for more than the legally allowed six hours a week above 48 hours and 24 hours per annum."
The commissioner of the state labour department heard the case on 22 October 2020. During the hearing, a representative from Amazon placed his contention that Vijay held a managerial post and the laws for working hours were not applicable to him. Whereas Vijay's contention was that the management should ensure that the hours of break and lunch are included in the hours while calculating the weekly hours of all employees irrespective of their position and to ensure that any employee who has worked for 48 hours and above in a week is paid OT irrespective of their designation.
NewsMeter has reached out to Amazon Development Center legal team, their version will be added once they will revert.
How many working hours, holidays are entitled to corporate employees
Under the provision of the Telangana Shops and Establishment Act, 1988, the Department of Labour, Government of Telangana provides detailed information about the working hours.
Daily and Weekly Hours of Work
An employee in any establishment is required to work not more than 8 hours in any day and 48 hours in a week
If any employee is working more than the eight hours, will be paid for his overtime and in a week he can only work six hours a week.
An employee can work overtime only six days in a year and it should not exceed more than 24 hours in a year.
The period of work of an employee in an establishment shall be so arranged that, along with his interval for rest, they shall not spread over for more than twelve hours on any day
Interval for rest during work
No employee in any establishment is required and allowed to work for more than five hours in any day unless she/he has had an interval for rest of at least one hour.
Every employee in any establishment shall be allowed in a holiday every week.
An employee's work schedule includes the days that an employee is working in a company. The government has formulated a law under which an employee work timing and days are mentioned.
It shall not be lawful for the employer to call an employee at or for the employee to go to, his establishment or any other place for any work in connection with the business of his establishment on any day or part of a day on which a holiday has been allowed in accordance with this section.
Every woman who has been for a period of not less than six months preceding the date of her delivery in continuous employment of the same employer whether in the same or different shops or commercial establishments shall be entitled to receive from her employer for the period of
(a) six weeks immediately preceding the day of delivery and
(b) six weeks following the day of delivery; such maternity benefit and in such manner as may be prescribed
Leave and holidays with wages
Every employee who has served for a period of 240 days or more during a continuous period of twelve months in any establishment shall be entitled during the subsequent period of twelve months, to leave with wages for the period of fifteen days provided that such leave with wages may be accumulated up to a maximum period of sixty days.
Every employee in an establishment shall also be entitled to nine holidays in a year with wages on the days to be specified by notification from time to time, by the Government which shall include the 26th January (Republic Day), 1st May, (May Day), 15th August (Independence Day) 2nd October (Gandhi Jayanthi) and on every such holiday, all the establishments, either with or without employees, shall remain closed.
Compulsory enrolment of employees to Insurance cum savings scheme
Every employee who has served in an establishment for a period of not less than one year shall subscribe to the insurance scheme or Insurance cum savings scheme as may be notified by the government to be applicable to the establishment in which the employee is working, at the rates, stipulated by the government in the notification either in a lump sum every year or in monthly installments, as may be prescribed by the government in the notification.
Conditions for terminating the services of an employee
No employer shall, without a reasonable cause terminate the service of an employee who has been in his employment continuously for a period of not less than six months without giving such employee at least one month notice in writing or wages in lieu thereof and in respect of an employee who has been in his employment continuously for a period of not less than one year, a service compensation amounting to fifteen days average wages for each year of continuous employment.