Amazon’s former head of visual effects for Amazon Studios, Marc Sadeghi, is suing the company saying he was fired for upgrading a flight to New Zealand despite a medical condition he claims made coach travel impossible. If he wins, upgrades as a disability accommodation could become the emotional support animals of the 2020s.
Sadeghi says he didn’t know about Amazon’s ‘coach only’ travel policy until after he took the job, and his back problems (“scoliosis and sciatica”) mean he needs room to stretch out. Amazon’s policy is unusual for a movie studio, and Sadeghi says that several times he sought a reasonable accommodation.
Sadeghi had informed his supervisors that he could suffer severe pain if forced to sit in coach, especially on flights longer than five hours. Ken Lipman, the studio’s head of drama production, was not unsympathetic. He suggested that Sadeghi should try to get a medical clearance from Amazon. But Sadeghi knew that could take months, and he was needed in New Zealand right away.
Tim Clawson, Sadeghi’s manager, was less helpful, according to the suit. When Sadeghi told him that a 14-hour flight could leave him in such pain that it would take two months to recover, Clawson said that was a “bummer.”
That’s when Sadeghi turned to internet rumors and bad advice, which are nearly ubiquitous surrounding upgrades: “Through the grapevine, Sadeghi heard he could get a free upgrade on Air New Zealand. He asked the assistant to get him on the list.” He learned, though, that his “assistant had failed to do so” because of course there’s no such thing for the average flyer.
The executive in his suit says his assistant told him that his boss “had previously used the company credit card to pay for an upgrade at the gate, and handled it internally afterwards. So he told his assistant to do likewise, figuring he would sort it out upon his return.” Blame the assistant!
He charged an upgrade to premium economy to his Amazon credit card (the company credit card, not the 5% cash back on Amazon charges one, natch). And when he returned from New Zealand he was confronted by H.R.
As a sidenote: people often get confused and think HR is there to help them, to sort out conflicts and serve as some sort of neutral arbiter of disputes. HR is there to protect the company from lawsuits and handle administrative tasks for management. HR is not your friend. He was asked,
“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?”
He knew his assistant had “turned on him” and was ‘disloyal’ after all he’d “caught his assistant secretly recording him” the month before. In his defense, he says other executives at the company routinely behave badly, too.
He’s suing for “disability discrimination, failing to provide a reasonable accommodation, and wrongful termination.”
(HT: Paddle Your Own Kanoo)