A senior Amazon Studios executive has filed a lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court against the famously thrifty tech company alleging that its ‘coach only’ travel policy was discriminatory because his chronic back conditions prevented him from travelling in a confined Economy seat on long flights.
The issue came to a head in late 2019 when the newly hired Global Head of Visual Effects was asked to travel on a 14-hour hour from Los Angeles to New Zealand in an Economy seat.
Marc Sadeghi says he only learned of Amazon’s ‘coach only’ travel policy after being hired by the studio which makes most of Amazon’s Prime streaming programming and is based in the Culver City area of Los Angeles.
Sadeghi, however, suffers from scoliosis and sciatica and told his bosses that travelling in a confined Economy seat on long flights over five hours might be an issue. In general, Sadeghi says he complied with the policy but when it came to the New Zealand flight he did his best to score an upgrade.
Despite telling his boss Tim Clawson that such a long flight could leave him in agony and force him out of work for a couple of months to recover, Clawson apparently simply remarked that it would be a “bummer” without providing any further advice or guidance.
Another manager suggested Sadeghi get medical clearance for an upgrade but that process could have taken months – instead, Sadeghi had just days to prepare for his trip.
With little help from his superiors, Sadeghi had heard that it was possible to get listed by Air New Zealand for a complimentary upgrade. Sadeghi asked his assistant to get him on the list but just days before departure he learned that his assistant had failed to get him on the upgrade list.
His assistant did, though, suggest that Clawson had previously paid for an upgrade at the gate using the company credit card and then sorted the fallout using internal processes. With the weekend upon them, Sadeghi used his company credit card to pay for the upgrade to Premium Economy with the intention of sorting out any issues upon his return.
His assistant even allegedly told him that the budget for the project was being reviewed and that Premium Economy travel was being considered as part of the review.
But on his return, rather than meeting bosses to discuss his findings from his trip, Sadeghi was instead asked to meet with an executive from Human Resources who launched into a line of questioning that included:
“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 was also accused, the lawsuit claims, of misuse of company funds – including for the upgrade to Premium Economy.
Sadeghi believes that his assistant had “turned on him” – an allegation that he wasn’t totally surprised by because he had previously caught his assistant recording him on a mobile phone.
Following what has been described as a “results orientated” investigation, Sadeghi was sacked from Amazon Studios with immediate effect for multiple policy infractions. Sadeghi, however, claims Amazon failed to provide reasonable accommodations for his disability.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Wednesday, demands a jury trial.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.