(NEXSTAR) – Amazon is vowing to take “any necessary action” in response to a delivery driver’s claims that she was threatened with termination if she abandoned her route amid tornado warnings near Edwardsville, Illinois, late last week.
The alleged incident, as first reported by Bloomberg, concerned an Amazon driver and her supervisor, and occurred about 80 minutes before the roof of an Amazon facility in Edwardsville collapsed amid the damaging winds, leaving six people dead.
In a text exchange obtained by Bloomberg, the driver indicated to her boss that she had received a warning over the radio about tornado activity, screengrabs of the texts show.
“Okay just keep delivering, we can’t just call people back for a warning unless amazon tells us to do so,” the supervisor replied, according to the image.
About a half-hour later, the driver alerted her boss that she was hearing “tornado alarms,” but she was again told to “just keep delivering for now,” the texts show. After getting the go-ahead from Amazon, the supervisor told the driver to shelter in place, but the driver instead suggested she return to the warehouse, claiming there was no suitable place to shelter other than her own van, which she feared would become her “casket.”
The supervisor said it wasn’t safe to return to the warehouse, and told her to stay where she was.
“If you decide to return with your packages it will be viewed as you refusing your route, which will ultimately end with you not having a job come tomorrow morning,” the boss wrote back, according to the exchange as it appeared at Bloomberg. “The sirens are just a warning.”
Upon learning of the alleged incident, Amazon issued a statement confirming it would “use this incident to improve our policies.” But the company also said that the driver’s supervisor, whom they identified as a dispatcher, should not have told the driver to keep delivering packages amid tornado warnings.
Amazon also indicated that the driver was not injured.
“This was a developing situation across a broad geographic area, and unfortunately the delivery service partner’s dispatcher didn’t follow the standard safety practice — this dispatcher should have immediately directed the driver to seek shelter when the driver reported hearing tornado sirens. While this text exchange was going on, the local Amazon team was ensuring each delivery service partner had directed their drivers to shelter in place or seek shelter and advised them to stop delivering for the evening,” said Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel in a statement shared with Nexstar.
“We’re glad the driver is safe and we’re using the learnings from this incident to improve our policies and guidance for delivery service partners and drivers,” Nantel continued. “Under no circumstance should the dispatcher have threatened the driver’s employment and we’re investigating the full details of this incident and will take any necessary action.”
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, meanwhile, said earlier this week that it had opened an investigation into the collapse of the Edwardsville facility’s roof. Specifically, investigators are planning to review whether workplace safety rules were followed. Amazon, however, has said that workers had little time to seek shelter when the National Weather Service declared a tornado warning that night.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.