Security Industry Specialists, which provides security staff at Amazon, agreed to reinstate and pay back wages to employees wrongly disciplined for taking sick time. The company, though, says it’s “unaware” of any such workers.
A security contractor used by Amazon has settled an employment charge filed by the Seattle Office of Civil Rights (OCR) under the city’s paid sick-time law.
Security Industry Specialists (SIS), a California-based company that until recently worked for Apple and Google in Silicon Valley, agreed last week to amend its policies and practices to clarify that employees don’t necessarily need medical notes to call in sick, and that they can call in sick within eight hours of a shift, under certain circumstances.
SIS doesn’t admit wrongdoing in its written settlement with the OCR, and the agreement says the OCR has made no determination regarding whether the company has broken the law. But in an interview, OCR director Patricia Lally said she believes the company didn’t properly notify employees of Seattle laws regarding sick pay.
“I believe there were violations of notice,” Lally said.
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But Lally added that investigators, who reviewed the company’s conduct during the 180-day period before Sept. 15, when she first filed the case, found no instances in which SIS improperly suspended or terminated employees over sick-pay issues.
“We didn’t find that anybody was harmed,” Lally said.
The notice violations, though, led her to push SIS to change its policy to comply with city rules. The agreement takes the serious step of requiring SIS to reinstate and pay back wages to Seattle employees who can prove they were suspended or discharged after March 18, 2014, for calling in sick without a note or within eight hours of a shift.
The agreement also requires that sick-time-related warnings be removed from those employees’ personnel files.
Workers who believe they were improperly disciplined can raise the issue with an SIS executive.
It’s unclear from the settlement what process the company plans to use to adjudicate those claims. But the city retained the right to review compliance with the agreement for one year.
SIS President and Chief Financial Officer Tom Seltz said the company settled because it believed there was no reason to dispute the agreement.
“The settlement simply requires SIS to follow existing law and, to our knowledge, no one ever has been discharged for taking sick leave, so we do not believe anyone will claim entitlement to be reinstated,” Seltz wrote in an email.
The agreement includes a memo SIS will distribute to current and former employees in which it details rules regarding sick-time pay. In the memo, SIS notes that it is “unaware of any instances” of improper discipline of any employee.
Seattle-based Amazon isn’t named in the agreement. And Ty Rogers, an Amazon spokesman, declined to comment on the settlement.
Seltz said SIS “continues to enjoy an excellent relationship with Amazon.”
SIS has been the target of a union-organizing campaign by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has alleged a variety of labor-rights violations.
Matt Haney, a strategic researcher for SEIU Local 6 in Seattle, believes some SIS workers were improperly disciplined over sick-time issues, despite the city’s findings. He said the union plans to work with those employees to seek restitution under the terms of the settlement.
Another group, Working Washington, a Seattle-based organization that advocates for better pay for low-wage workers, has been working with SEIU to pressure SIS to improve working conditions.
Like Working Washington, another organization, Silicon Valley Rising, has been putting pressure on California technology companies over the treatment of contractor employees. Google stopped using SIS last year and Apple made the same move earlier this month.