Amazon was aware of drivers urinating in bottles and defecating in bags despite issuing a denial of the practice, according to leaked documents.
The internet giant had denied on its official Twitter account that drivers were skipping restroom breaks as they sought to meet delivery targets.
In a post on Amazon News it said: “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you?”
But according to documents leaked to The Intercept managers were aware of the practice.
An internal email from a logistics manager in May last year said: “This evening, an associate discovered human faeces in an Amazon bag that was returned to station by a driver.
“This is the 3rd occasion in the last 2 months when bags have been returned to station with poop inside.
“We understand that DA’s [driver associates] may have emergencies while on-road, and especially during Covid DAs have struggled to find bathrooms while delivering. Regardless, DAs cannot, MUST NOT, return bags to station with poop inside.”
The memo continued: “We’ve noticed an uptick recently of all kinds of unsanitary garbage being left inside bags: used masks, gloves, bottles of urine.”
It called the behaviour by drivers “unacceptable” and said such incidents would be treated as “infractions”.
Another confidential internal document from January referred to “public urination” and “public defecation.”
One employee told The Intercept: “Every single day of my shift I have to use the restroom in a bottle to finish my route on time. This is so common that you’ll often find bottles from other drivers located under seats in the vans. The fact that Amazon would tweet that is hilarious.”
The row over urinating in bottles began after Dave Clark, a senior Amazon executive, said the company was the “Bernie Sanders of employers, but that’s not quite right because we actually deliver a progressive workplace.”
Mark Pocan, a Democrat US congressman from Wisconsin, responded: “Paying workers $15/hr doesn’t make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles.”
Amazon News then published its comments. It said: “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us.
“The truth is that we have over a million incredible employees around the world who are proud of what they do, and have great wages and health care from day one.”
Amazon employs around 1.3 million people around the globe.
It also has contracts with hundreds of other companies to deliver packages, and many of the 400,000 drivers are working for separate firms, or are self-employed.
Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, is the richest person in the world with a fortune of $179 billion, according to Bloomberg.
The row came on the day Mr Sanders joined a unionisation effort by 5,800 Amazon workers at a warehouse in Alabama.
It would be the first union on US soil at the massive technology company.