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During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeff Bezos, the chief executive officer of Amazon.com Inc. (Amazon), became the world’s richest person by adding US$6 billion to his net worth by the end of March 2020. While the worth of other billionaires was decreasing because of the unprecedented market volatility created by the pandemic, retail sales surged to a record level for Amazon. To meet the additional workforce requirements created by the sudden rise in demand, Bezos announced a new hiring drive for Amazon’s warehouses and delivery network. The announcement came when Amazon’s labour practices were under the scrutiny of New York State and New York City authorities for the disputed “wrongful termination” of a warehouse worker. Amazon’s conduct was vehemently condemned by labour unions, labour supporters, the media, and New York City authorities. At the same time, Amazon employees expressed their concerns about the hiring of additional workers, as more workers could further aggravate the workplace safety issues at the company’s warehouses. Bezos vehemently claimed to be committed to workers’ health and safety and announced new paid sick leave and hazard benefits policies for workers who were not working from home. Was the authorities’ scrutiny of Smalls’ termination and the workplace safety measures at Amazon’s facilities a signal of legal battles looming for Amazon? Was Bezos protecting the wellness of his employees? Did the new policies and safety measures point toward a change in Bezos’s crisis management strategy? How could Amazon move from a greed/profit perspective to a profit with purpose perspective? How should Amazon manage in an almost permanent crisis-like situation?
The case may be used in postgraduate courses, management development programs, and leadership development workshops.After working through the case and assignment questions, students will be able to ·gain insight into the globally-recognized health and safety rights of workers in the workplace; ·examine the legal obligations of an employer to protect its workers from workplace hazards; ·analyze the repercussions of firing employees and managing the domino effect on employees; ·evaluate a crisis situation; ·discern the difference between greed, profit, and profit with purpose; ·understand how organizations manage during times of crisis and hardship; and ·investigate how to adopt different strategies for building resilience in times of hardship.