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Family of Amazon HR exec sue company for $6.5M over his death

A bereaved family suing Amazon for $6.5m over the death of a $150,000-a-year HR  executive have slammed the firm, and accused it of driving him to an early grave.

The Ashley family are suing Amazon for IT manager Ronald Ashley’s death in late 2016 when he died of a heart attack, after the company cut off his disability payments.

The family’s tragedy redoubled when Ronald’s older brother also died of a heart attack a year later, which the family believes was brought on by grief.

The Ashleys say the company is a ‘bureaucratic mess’, growing too quickly to look after its workers properly, and that were it not for Amazon’s actions, Ronald, 53, would still be alive.

‘I’m furious. He needed this disability pay when he was living, and now he’s dead. This has been so hurtful to me and my family,’ the Amazon worker’s younger brother, Dwayne Ashley, told DailyMailTV. 

Ronald Ashley, 53, worked as an HR exec at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle. He became disabled after suffering a fall in a hotel shower during a business trip in 2015 

The family has claimed the company is a 'bureaucratic mess', growing too quickly to look after its workers properly, and that were it not for Amazon's actions, Ronald, 53, would still be alive

The family has claimed the company is a ‘bureaucratic mess’, growing too quickly to look after its workers properly, and that were it not for Amazon’s actions, Ronald, 53, would still be alive

Amazon billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos attended the 76th annual Golden Globes on Sunday night. The company has faced previous claims of improperly denying employee benefits and mistreating shop floor workers at the firm's sorting warehouses

Amazon billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos attended the 76th annual Golden Globes on Sunday night. The company has faced previous claims of improperly denying employee benefits and mistreating shop floor workers at the firm’s sorting warehouses

‘It’s so disrespectful that the company would treat him like that.’

The lawsuit is the first involving a senior member of Amazon’s staff. The company has faced previous claims of improperly denying employee benefits and mistreating shop floor workers at the firm’s sorting warehouses.

The Ashleys ask for at least $6,586,000 from Amazon in their legal complaint filed in New York. Family attorney Michael Kapin, said the case could cost the company ‘tens of millions of dollars’ if it goes before a jury. 

‘Every detail I hear about this case makes my stomach cringe,’ Kapin told DailyMailTV. ‘I feel so much compassion for the family and what they’ve had to go through.’

Dwayne said Ronald was a senior IT manager working in the Seattle headquarters with a salary of around $150,000, an ‘incredible’ work ethic, and was well-liked at the firm, acting as a mentor for younger staff and often cooking cajun dishes for his colleagues.

But when Ronald fell in a hotel shower on a business trip in 2015, breaking bones in his thorax, Amazon delayed and refused to complete his disability payments, the family claim in court documents.

The senior human resources business analyst already had health complications from being HIV positive, but offered to work from home, sending emails and taking calls while he recovered.

Amazon denied his requests and cut off his disability pay after three months, the Ashleys claim. 

By fall of 2016, Ronald had run out of money, racking up credit card debt and facing eviction over unpaid rent, and spiraled into a ‘crippling depression’, the court documents say.

‘He didn’t tell our family that he was struggling financially because he was a very proud person,’ said Dwayne. 

‘When his savings started to run out the stress started to mount, and it led to the decline of his mental state.

‘Ron started to isolate himself from the family. That was not like him at all, he was very close to us. He didn’t come home for Thanksgiving, which was odd because he always cooked for the family.’

A few days later, his landlord let herself into his apartment in Bellevue, Washington, and discovered his body. The coroner concluded he had lain there for days after dying from a heart attack brought on by stress.

The Ashleys have called Amazon's alleged actions 'disrespectful' and 'ironic' as Ronald (pictured far right with his brothers) was 'someone who took care of Amazon employees, and when he needed the benefits himself, they didn't want to give them to him' 

The Ashleys have called Amazon’s alleged actions ‘disrespectful’ and ‘ironic’ as Ronald (pictured far right with his brothers) was ‘someone who took care of Amazon employees, and when he needed the benefits himself, they didn’t want to give them to him’ 

Ashley (pictured in white with his mother cutting her birthday cake) began to 'isolate himself' from his family after he began struggling financially, his brother claims 

Ashley (pictured in white with his mother cutting her birthday cake) began to ‘isolate himself’ from his family after he began struggling financially, his brother claims 

In their court claim, the Ashleys say Amazon’s failure to pay disability benefits was to blame.

‘But for Amazon’s failure to honor contractually agreed to and/or provide granted benefits and accommodations to Ronald while he was disabled, Ronald would not have passed away,’ the court documents say.

The family claim the firm’s failure to pay shows ‘the bureaucratic mess at Amazon as a result of the company’s rapid expansion. Due to its fast development this corporate gargantuan is unable to keep pace with the imperative requests made by its employees.’

‘This whole thing was so hurtful,’ said Dwayne. ‘Here’s someone who took care of Amazon employees, and when he needed the benefits himself, they didn’t want to give them to him. It’s so disrespectful and ironic that the company would treat him like that.’

Dwayne said that the family’s grief was redoubled when he eldest brother, Howard, died of a heart attack while sat on the sofa with his 18-year-old son. The family believe Howard’s desperate grief over losing his brother was the cause.

Pictured above is the funeral program for Ashley. The family's tragedy redoubled when Ronald's older brother also died of a heart attack a year later, which the family believes was brought on by grief

Pictured above is the funeral program for Ashley. The family’s tragedy redoubled when Ronald’s older brother also died of a heart attack a year later, which the family believes was brought on by grief

‘Ron was a real leader. Howard was more insecure, more of an introvert. Ron was always his cheerleader. His death impacted Howard greatly,’ said Dwayne.

‘Ron was very much a family person. He was always the one that cooked for us on the holidays and gave gifts to everyone. Because he worked at Amazon he would buy literally hundreds of gifts for everyone. There would be bags of all these wonderful gifts around the tree at Christmas. He was a very generous person.’

Kapin said the Ashleys are adamant that the company rights the alleged mistreatment of their son and brother.

‘Someone who was HIV positive and disclosed his status to the company, was a hardworking and dedicated employee, for him to be treated like this… I feel so much compassion for the family and what they’ve had to go through.

‘The Ashley family are determined that no family of an Amazon employee will have to go through this again, and they’re going to work hard to make sure Ronald’s memory is not forgotten. They want this to lead to change, not only at this one huge company, but for how all corporations treat their employees.’

An Amazon spokesperson said the company does not comment on pending legal cases, but added that ‘Amazon follows all federal, state, and local laws.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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