When a company as prominent as Amazon begins offering tuition assistance to warehouse employees, it makes news but it has also raised questions about Amazon’s motives and proved again that no good deed goes unexamined in the interconnected digital world. The Amazon Career Choice program was announced following press reports of harsh working conditions at an Amazon warehouse in Allentown, PA – temperatures over 100 degrees and pressure to work at a relentless pace. Jeff Bezos lauded the program on Amazon’s homepage. Critics labeled it a PR stunt.
The Amazon Career Choice program will pre-pay 95 percent of the cost, up to $2000, of vocational courses in fields as varied as mechanics, computer-aided design, and medical lab technology – in other words, courses that could lead to better-paying jobs than Amazon’s warehouse employees have now.
On the surface this is a bold and generous move, but there are some catches. Only employees who have worked full-time for Amazon for at least three years are eligible for the tuition assistance. Temps, seasonal workers, and those who work for subcontractors won’t benefit. The company so far has not said how many warehouse employees qualify.
The lesson for HR? Treat employees well in the first place, and if you slip up, expect your remedial actions to get close scrutiny in the blogosphere.