Amazon uses a draconian 'improvement' program to exert 'potentially illegal' control over workers: report
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. (AFP/File / Jim WATSON)

A new report from the Daily Beast shows how Amazon uses a draconian worker "improvement" program to exert control over workers in ways that the publication claims are "potentially illegal."

The report begins with the story of a former Amazon employee who was put on the "improvement" program shortly after she returned to work within just a week of undergoing surgery.

This was a clear violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act, and Amazon subsequently offered her a larger buyout if she agreed to leave the company -- but only if she signed an agreement promising not to sue the company.

This was all done under what the Daily Beast describes as "an experimental management program" at Amazon called Pivot that gives workers the choice of leaving or undergoing a rigorous "improvement" plan.

"It’s a critical piece of the toolkit the company’s management uses to wield power over its workers," the report writes. "Amazon managers have routinely used Pivot as a weapon to edge out employees for a slew of reasons unrelated to low performance—some of them potentially illegal—according to current and former employees and employment lawyers familiar with the program."

Although the program was initially pitched as a compassionate lifeline for underperforming employees, sources tell the Daily Beast that it's really used to keep employees in a state of constant anxiety about their jobs.

What's more, Amazon has made changes to the program in recent months that squeeze workers even harder.

"Amazon quietly modified the Pivot program in April, eliminating the upfront option to appeal being placed in the program," the report says. "Instead, employees now face two choices: severance or PIP. Those who opt for the latter and fail can either take a reduced payout or appeal the decision with the caveat that failed appeals receive a further reduced severance."

Read the whole report here.