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Lawsuit: Local Amazon worker says he was fired after hurting back in warehouse

Packages on a conveyor belt await loading into trucks at the Ruskin Amazon facility in 2016. (Times file photo)
Packages on a conveyor belt await loading into trucks at the Ruskin Amazon facility in 2016. (Times file photo)
Published Apr. 13, 2018

TAMPA — A former Amazon warehouse employee has filed a lawsuit in Hillsborough County claiming managers with the online retailer fired him after he hurt his back on the job.

Bryan Hill, 43, of Seffner, started working as an Amazon "sorter" in late March 2017, according to the court filing. He is suing for $15,000 in back pay, lost wages, emotional distress and punitive damages.

Hill hurt his back about six months into his employment while lifting heavy packages, the lawsuit says. It was Sept. 6 — just before Hurricane Irma shut down the warehouse for five days.

Hill worked out of the Amazon Flex center on E Adamo Drive, according to his lawyer, Miguel Bouzas.

The "flex" centers allow Amazon drivers, usually contractors, to pick up orders and deliver them to shoppers in as little as one to two hours through Amazon Prime.

Hill, according to the lawsuit, told his managers about his back injury the first day the warehouse reopened after the hurricane. He told them he was still in paid. The lawsuit says that Hill's managers never filed worker's compensation paperwork on his behalf.

"They were completely unprepared to file a worker's compensation claim, and that's unacceptable given the size of the operation in that community," Bouzas said.

Read more: Tampa Bay area doesn't make cut as Amazon second headquarter finalist

The lawsuit alleges that when Hill tried to make the claim inutility, an on-site manager said he did not have the proper paperwork and asked Hill to write out what happened on a yellow note pad.

The manager also told Hill he was "too young to have back problems," the lawsuit says.

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When Hill tried to see a doctor he was referred to by his managers, the doctor told him he needed authorization from Amazon. Hill said human resources told him his managers never filed his worker's comp claim so HR could not authorize the doctor's visit.

Instead, Hill says he found out he was terminated a week later from an internal Amazon website.

Bouzas said his client was fired illegally and that it was also illegal to never initiate the worker's compensation filing.

"The message they're sending is, if you file a claim your job is in jeopardy," Bouzas said.

Amazon did not respond to request for comment.

Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8862. Follow @sara_dinatale.

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