An Amazon worker on leave emailed Jeff Bezos to say she'd been underpaid, The New York Times said.
A subsequent investigation found that Amazon was systematically underpaying some workers on leave.
A spokesperson told The Times that Amazon was still identifying underpaid workers.
Tara Jones, an Oklahoma Amazon warehouse worker, emailed Bezos in 2020 to tell him she was being underpaid $90 out of $540 she was supposed to get a month, The Times reported. She had a newborn baby at the time, The Times said.
"I'm behind on bills, all because the pay team messed up," Jones wrote in her email. She added, "I'm crying as I write this email," the report said.
The Times interviewed Amazon staff and reviewed internal documents that showed that Amazon subsequently discovered it was shortchanging some employees who were on leave, including medical and disability leave. The problems spanned at least a year and a half, and it potentially affected as many as 179 warehouses.
An Amazon spokesperson told The Times that the company was still in the process of identifying workers it had underpaid.
One of those people, a warehouse worker from Tennessee named James Watts, told The Times that his disability payments stopped for several months in the spring. Watts told The Times that his car was repossessed and that he and his wife sold their wedding rings.
Current and former HR employees also told The Times that workers facing medical problems were automatically fired by Amazon's attendance software after it mistook their leave for absence.
Bethany Reyes, an Amazon HR employee who has recently been charged with fixing the company's leave system, told The Times that the company was trying to rebalance its mantra of "optimizing" for the customer.
"A lot of times, because we've optimized for the customer experience, we've been focused on that," Reyes said. She added that the company was working to address "pain points" and "pay issues." She also said the automatic firings were "the most dire issue that you could have."
Amazon did not immediately respond when contacted by Insider for comment on the report.
In a letter to shareholders last year, Bezos boasted that the lowest-paid Amazon worker made more than 40 million people in the US.
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