An Amazon executive has filed a lawsuit after he was fired following him upgrading a flight to New Zealand…
Amazon executive didn’t want to fly coach to New Zealand
Marc Sadeghi was the global head of visual effects for Amazon Studios, based in Culver City, California. After accepting the job he became familiar with Amazon’s frugal travel policy, requiring a vast majority of employees to fly coach or pay for their own seat upgrades. That’s in stark contrast to much of the entertainment industry, where business class on many flights is the norm.
Sadeghi had a work trip to New Zealand, but didn’t want to fly in economy. He claimed to have back problems — scoliosis and sciatica — and needed more room to stretch out. Unfortunately for him, he was denied several times:
- He told his manager that a 14-hour flight in economy would leave him in so much pain that it would take him two months to recover, to which the reply was that this is a “bummer”
- When he talked to Amazon Studios’ head of drama production, it was suggested that he should try to get a medical clearance from Amazon, but that could take months, and he needed to take the trip right away
At this point Sadeghi got his assistant involved:
- He had heard through the grapevine that you could get a free upgrade on Air New Zealand, so he instructed his assistant to get him on the free upgrade list; the assistant failed to do so, which isn’t surprising, since there’s no such list
- He alleges that his assistant told him that another manager had previously used the company credit card to pay for an upgrade at the gate, and handled it internally afterwards, so that’s exactly what Sadeghi did, figuring he could handle it after the fact
Amazon fired executive for policy infractions
When Sadeghi returned from New Zealand in December 2019, he was asked to meet with a representative from human resources to go over some “allegations,” and he was forced to turn over his laptop and badge. At this point he was asked a series of questions:
- “Have you ever asked your assistant to run personal errands?”
- “Have you ever sent your assistant a picture of a cartoon penis?”
- “Have you ever instructed your assistant to break policy?”
At this point Sadeghi realized that his assistant had “turned on him.” He had already doubted his assistant’s loyalty, as he noticed the assistant secretly recording him the day before Thanksgiving break.
Allegations included that Sadeghi had misused company funds, and had used off-color language. He argued that the company fostered an environment where such language was tolerated, even stating that he heard another executive refer to someone else as a “squirrelly c**t.”
A few days later he was informed that an investigation had uncovered a pattern of multiple policy infractions, and he was terminated.
Sadeghi has filed a lawsuit against the company for disability discrimination, failing to provide a reasonable accommodation, and wrongful termination. He claimed the investigation wasn’t fair, and that it was illegal for his assistant to record him.
My take on this story
What a story. A few things stand out to me here:
- I didn’t realize Amazon had such a stingy travel policy, as it seems really extreme to not even offer premium economy on an ultra long haul flight
- At the same time, if this guy was accepting a job where he was going to have to travel a fair bit, and if he had medical conditions that would cause him to take months to recover following a long haul flight in economy, shouldn’t he have checked with the company on the policy prior to accepting the job?
- If he really wanted the upgrade he should have paid the difference himself, either with cash or miles; instead he relied on some imaginary upgrade concept (asking to be put on the free upgrade list), and then putting the upgrade on the company credit card because his assistant said someone else did that, even though he was explicitly told the company wouldn’t pay for his upgrade
- It sure sounds like this wasn’t the guy’s only infraction, but rather that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back
Like I said, I absolutely think Amazon’s policy is ridiculously stingy, but it’s also on him to know the company’s travel policy before he accepts a job.
An Amazon executive was terminated after upgrading a flight to New Zealand with a company credit card, after being told the company wouldn’t pay for his upgrade. It sounds like there were some other infractions on his part that ultimately caused him to be fired, and this was just an easy thing to get him on.
The man is now suing the company for disability discrimination and more, so I’ll be curious to see what comes of this. Like I said, Amazon’s travel policy seems extremely stingy, but he should have also known that coming in.
What do you make of this Amazon upgrade situation?