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‘Colony of hell’: Amazon employee suicide threats tied to ‘dehumanizing’ workplace conditions at warehouses

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Newly revealed recordings show dozens of emergency calls made from Amazon warehouses for employees threatening suicide — and many of them blamed brutal and dehumanizing work conditions for their depression.

Over a five-year period between October 2013 and October 2018, emergency workers were called at least 189 times to 46 different Amazon warehouses in 17 states for suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts or other mental health emergencies, according to 911 call logs and first responder reports analyzed by The Daily Beast.

Amazon and its amazingly wealthy owner Jeff Bezos has faced criticism for years about working conditions in its warehouses, where employees complain about silence, isolation and job duties that are both stressful and boring.

“They treat us like robots,” said one employee who went on leave after threatening suicide at a warehouse in Lebanon, Tennessee.

Managers closely monitor employees and flag any slowdown longer than a few minutes, and former employees said they regularly worked 12-hour shifts with just two 30-minute breaks and one 15-minute break.

“It’s this isolating colony of hell where people having breakdowns is a regular occurrence,” said Jace Crouch, who had an emotional crisis on the job at a Lakeland, Florida, warehouse.

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Crouch said it was “mentally taxing to do the same task super fast for 10-hour shifts, four or five days a week,” and the stress followed him home.

“It made it really hard for me to deal with that dehumanization at work,” Crouch said. “I would come home, not talk to anyone, sit in bed, and cry.”

Some employees told the website they struggled to get promised compensation after they were placed on leave, and others said counseling was either insufficient or too expensive — and some say they were fired.

Amazon told The Daily Beast that the company values the health of its employees, and suggested the number of suicide calls were an “overgeneralization” that “doesn’t take into account the total of our associate population, hours worked, or our growing network.”

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“The physical and mental well-being of our associates is our top priority, and we are proud of both our efforts and overall success in this area,” the company said in a statement.

“We provide comprehensive medical care starting on day one so employees have access to the care when they need it most, 24-hour a day free and confidential counseling services, and various leave and medical accommodation options covering both mental and physical health concerns.”

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