Nicholas Stover has Crohn’s disease. The now-former Amazon employee is suing the corporate behemoth for wrongful termination alleging it violated federal law when it fired him for taking too many bathroom breaks.
Stover’s lawsuit claims that Amazon violated the Americans with Disabilities Act with its “inhuman policies regarding bathroom access.”
The Lexington, Kentucky man suffers from the incurable but treatable inflammatory bowel condition that inflames the digestive tract and causes abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, weight loss and fatigue. Incurable but treatable, the symptoms may be lessened though not eliminated. Symptoms can occur without warning and require the immediate need for bathroom facilities.
Amazon was “fully informed of this before they employed Mr. Stover,” his lawsuit states.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Amazon Knew of His Condition & Requirements From Him & His Doctor When They Hired Him. Later Amazon Said if They Made Accommodations For Him They’d ‘Have to do it for Everyone’
In November of 2016, Stover, 36, began working at the Amazon Winchester, Kentucky call center. His suit says around 900 people worked there. He was hired as a phone customers service rep. When he applied, he claims, he “proactively informed” Amazon that he suffers from Crohn’s disease.
Indeed, his lawsuit includes documentation from March of 2017, access request forms and a letter from his physician, noting his condition was permanent and he might suffer from diarrhea and abdominal pain. The doctor wrote that Stover “Can work full time but needs access to bathroom facility.”
Stover says he’s a “qualified individual” under ADA rules and that means his rights are protected.
His lawsuit says that “an officer then in the Human Resources office of the Winchester call center, Palak Patel, told Mr. Stover that if the center were to make accommodation for his bathroom needs, then ‘we’d have to do it for everyone.’ This is direct evidence of disability discrimination.”
He was not accommodated, his suit says
2. Stover Says Amazon’s Policy on Bathroom Breaks is ‘Unyielding’ & ‘Inhumane’
According to his lawsuit, before they hired him, Amazon did not tell him about the company’s “unyielding and inhuman policies governing bathroom access.”
Stover says at the call center where he worked, employees were only allowed to “leave his or her work stations” during the first part of the day’s 15-minute break, lunch hour, and a second 15-minute break after the lunch and before the end of an employee shift. The company also allowed for two 10 minute personal time breaks per week. “…if the employee needs to use this personal time for a bathroom break, the employee is subject to disciplinary action” if they took more time.
“…if the employee uses 10 minutes of personal time for a bathroom break on Monday and 10 minutes of personal time for a bathroom break on Tuesday, the employee is out of personal time options for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On those days, the employee’s bathroom breaks must occur during the scheduled break times and meal time. Any more time taken beyond that on those three days will subject the employee to reprimand and other disciplinary possibilities.”
For Stover, the result was he was fired.
3. Despite His Illness, Stover Was Promoted & Got a Raise But Within Months, He Was Reprimanded & Ultimately Fired For ‘Time Theft’
In the spring of 2017, Stover was receiving medication infusions administered intravenously. He was often sick afterward, but, his suit states, “he would proceed to work his 2-to-11 p.m. shift at the Amazon call center.” He again was denied a request to be off on the “rare days – roughly once every 56 days – when he would have to receive” the IV infusions.
Again his requests for accommodations were denied.
At the same time, he was promoted and receive a pay raise based on his job performance. But by the summer and fall of 2017, “Stover endured constant reprimands. His supervisor during that time, Michelle Nemeth, accused Mr. Stover in writing of using ‘too much personal time’ and later told him orally that he was engaging in ‘time theft’ from Amazon because of excessive ‘bathroom breaks.’ This is direct evidence of disability discrimination.”
According to his lawsuit, Stover “had many occasions when the exigencies of Crohn’s disease commanded more bathroom time than he was allotted by the Amazon defendants’ draconian restrictions. Because of this, a process of continuous reprimands of him by the defendants began. This persisted from the early days of his employment and endured until his eventual termination …”
Read his complaint here:
On Dec. 21, 2017, Stover got an “involuntary termination” letter that cited no “grounds for the termination.” But, he claims, Nemeth told him the reason was “time theft.”
4. Demanding a Jury Trial, Stover is Seeking $3 Million in Compensatory Damages & Legal Fees
Stover said his termination left him with “anxiety, distress, depression, severe headaches, other physical pain, and a general worsening of the symptoms of Chron’s disease. With the loss of income and the loss of his medical coverage …” meant he could no longer get the medication infusions he required and as a result, his condition has worsened.
He alleges Amazon’s actions violated both the ADA and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.
He is looking for $3 million in compensatory damages and he wants all costs and fees associated with him bringing the case to be paid by Amazon.
5. Stover is a Photographer With a Master’s of Fine Arts Degree But Has Worked in Customer Service to Pay the Bills
Based on his Facebook, it appears Stover was married just a few weeks before he was hired at Amazon.
Stover, originally from South Carolina, graduated from Winthrop University with a Master’s of Fine Arts degree. His work history, per his LinkedIn, includes stints as a customer service rep for companies including Lowe’s and Xerox, before being hired at Amazon. Each of the jobs though appears to be of limited duration.
Now, according to his profile, he’s working as a photographer.
His profile reads, “Professional photographer with an extensive background in customer service and a wide knowledge of fine art and commercial photography. Photographing both portraits and landscapes for close to 15 years, and taught photography courses, under professor lesson plans, throughout college. Also managed and operated the fine art department’s dark room.”
Google reviews on the Amazon customer service center in Kentucky are mixed; some say it’s the best, others complain of their experiences working there.