Telangana HC orders probe into dismissal of Amazon employee

By Newsmeter Network  Published on  27 Feb 2021 4:15 AM GMT
Telangana HC orders probe into dismissal of Amazon employee

Hyderabad: Telangana High Court has directed the state labor department to probe into the dismissal of an employee by Hyderabad-based Amazon Development Center.

The complaint was filed by former employee Vijay Gopal. The court instructed the department to submit its report within four weeks.

Amazon Development Center terminated the services of Vijay Gopal – a senior operations manager for raising a red flag against alleged violation of labor laws with respect to the company's working hours.

Vijay's four-year journey with Amazon, where he served as an L5 operations manager, came to an end on November 27 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 Labor Commissioner", he said in a complaint.

Vijay moved the high court stating that Amazon was violating labor norms and contended that, the company was removing break from daily/weekly hours calculation.

"It is not registering hours of the employees designated and making its employee work on overtime of about 20 hours/ week is illegal. Notice Period of 30 days is illegal in Telangana State and terminating an employee when they Complaint against the illegalities of the company are Illegal," he contended.

Hearing the counsel representing Vijay Gopal, the High court said the present petition is disposed of with directions issued to the labor department to decide the pending complaints of the petitioner within a period of four weeks.

Earlier the Ministry of Labor had issued a notice to the state labor commissioner to examine the complaint. "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 Telangana labor commissioner alleging violation of employees' rights by the company. "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)," he said

Vijay alleged that all employees working for more than 48 hours were not being paid for overtime irrespective of the designation. "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," he said.

However, the legal team at Amazon 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. "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 RTI reply said.

The commissioner of the state labor department heard the case on October 22, 2020.During the hearing, a representative from Amazon contended 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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