Hyderabad- Union labour ministry has issued a notice to Telangana labour commissioner to examine the complaint against Amazon Development center located in Hyderabad for terminating one of its senior employees.

The Amazon Development Center in the city has terminated the services of one of its senior operations managers for raising a red flag against alleged violation of labor 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 the 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.

"My Employer has terminated me from the services as I had highlighted their illegal working hours, policies, and overtime policies and how they are not tracking the hours by managerial employees. Quite a few news agencies have covered the same. No reason was given. The company simply stated that they do not need my services anymore. Purely for the fact that I had filed an official complaint against them with the office of the TS Labour Commissioner", he said in a complaint.

In response to his complaint, the ministry has issued a notice to the state labor commissioner. "The department is requested to examine the matter, take urgent necessary actions to resolve the dispute, and inform the complainant accordingly under intimation to this Ministry," read the notice.

Complaint against Amazon's working hours

In 2019, Vijay had filed a complaint with the commissioner, Telangana department of labor, 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 labor 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 labor department heard the case on October 22, 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.

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