Amazon Studios has sacked a senior executive after he upgraded himself to business class for an overseas work trip.
The company has a strict (and stingy) travel policy requiring staff to fly economy, or pay for their own seat upgrades.
The employee has commenced legal action as a result of the dismissal, claiming discrimination on the basis of disability.
Stingy travel policy
Amazon Studios employed Marc Sadeghi to work as global head of visual effects, based in California.
The job required him to regularly travel for the company.
Despite most entertainment industry staffers travelling first or business class, Amazon requires its workers to travel at the “back of the bus” in economy.
Trip to New Zealand
While organising a work trip to New Zealand, Sadeghi told his manager he needed to fly business class for health reasons.
He claimed to suffer from back problems – for example, scoliosis and sciatica – and therefore needed room to stretch out.
He said the 14-hour flight in economy will leave him in so much pain that he will need two months to recover as a result.
Despite his pleas, his supervisor refused his request.
Sadeghi then asked his assistant to put him on Air New Zealand’s “free upgrade list” – despite no such list existing.
Finally, his assistant suggested he pay for the upgrade using his company credit card, and then sort it out internally on his return, which is exactly what he did.
Amazon boss sacked for upgrading
Amazon Studios human resources department asked Sadeghi to attend a meeting when he returned from New Zealand to go over some “allegations”.
During the meeting, management directed him to turn over his laptop and company identification before asking him a series of questions, including:
- “Have you ever asked your assistant to run personal errands?”
- “Have you ever sent your assistant a picture of a cartoon penis?”
- “And have you ever instructed your assistant to break policy?”
Sadeghi soon realised that his assistant had “turned on him.”
A few days after the meeting, Amazon told Sadeghi that its investigation had uncovered a pattern of policy infractions, and terminated his employment as a result.
Sadeghi has filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming disability discrimination and wrongful termination.
Rules are rules
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Fair Work Claims says Amazon’s travel policy is stingy, but rules are rules.
“Mr Sadeghi would have been aware of his employer’s travel policy when he accepted the job,” he said.
“Therefore, he can’t complain when those policies are enforced.”
Mr Heffernan believes there is more to Sadeghi’s termination.
“The questions he was asked during his disciplinary meeting indicate there were other issues with his work conduct,” he said.
“The upgrade incident seems to be the final straw.”
“If he really wanted to travel business class, he should have paid for it using his own credit card or frequent flyer points,” Mr Heffernan said.
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