Former employee sues Amazon call center

A former employee at Amazon’s call center in Winchester has filed suit against the company, alleging he was discriminated against and ultimately terminated because of he has Crohn’s disease.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Lexington Feb. 15, Nicholas Stover said the call center, located on Rolling Hills Drive in Winchester, failed to accommodate his need for additional bathroom breaks as a result of his condition, despite numerous requests for accommodations made by he and his doctor.

According to the complaint, Stover, a Lexington resident, was hired at the call center in November 2016 as a customer service associate, and was open about his illness and the necessary accommodations in his interview.

Chron’s disease is a chronic illness that causes inflammations of the digestive tract. Frequent diarrhea and abdominal pain are common symptoms. 

“In the application process … and during his job-training period, Stover proactively informed Amazon that he suffers from Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that can be both painful and debilitating and that can lead to life-threatening complications,” according to the complaint. “Episodes of symptoms of Crohn’s disease can occur without warning and can require urgent response, including immediate need for bathroom facilities.

Stover claims he was not informed of Amazon’s stringent break and personal time policy during the hiring process and for the more than two years he was employed there, he was reprimanded frequently for using the bathroom often. Those reprimands ultimately led to his wrongful termination, Stover alleges.

The complaint states that call center employees work nine-hours shifts that include two 15-minute breaks and a one-hour meal break, which are scheduled by Amazon in advance for specific times. Additionally, call center employees are allowed 20 minutes per week of personal time away from their work space, but not to exceed more than 10 minutes per shift.

“In other words, if the employee needs to use this personal time for a bathroom break, the employee is subject to disciplinary action is he is away for more than 10 minutes,” the suit states. “Stover had many occasions when the exigencies of Crohn’s disease commanded more bathroom time than he was allotted by the Amazon defendant’s draconian restrictions.”

As Stover began being reprimanded for taking too frequent bathroom breaks, he issued three separate requests from accommodations from his doctor stating he needed to be allowed more time for bathroom breaks and should have his desk moved closer to a restroom facility.

Amazon refused to make accommodations, the lawsuit alleges. A supervisor allegedly told Stover he was “stealing time” for taking so many breaks. And a human resources employee told him the company could not make accommodations for him or else they would have to make such accommodations for all employees.

Stover was terminated in 2017. The termination letter cites no grounds for terminating, but Stover’s supervisor allegedly told him he was being terminated because of “time theft.”

In the complaint, Stover argues his job performance was sufficient, evidenced by a pay raise and promotion he received less than a year before he was fired.

“Stover was proving himself to be a valuable employee,” he wrote in the complaint. “In February 2017, after he had been on the job for  just three months, Stover earned a pay raise and a promotion to an employee team called Search Rescue … (that) fields the most difficult customer problems and complaints.”

According to the lawsuit, “Harms suffered by Stover include, but are not limited to, anxiety, distress, depression, severe headaches, other physical pain and a general worsening of the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.”

Because Stover lost his health insurance, his condition has worsened and he had to stop infusions of a drug to treat his Crohn’s.

Stover is suing for a jury trial and damages of at least $3 million.