On October 5, an unnamed pregnant woman reportedly chose to end her life after she was fired from her job at UPS Worldport in Louisville, Kentucky—the largest employer in the city. Now, as the circumstances of her death are under investigation by Louisville Metro police, employees of the largest automated packaging sorting facility in the world are contextualizing the tragedy via a staggering report.
“The working conditions are tragic,” one UPS worker who knew the woman told the Guardian. “She was pregnant, I believe she was in her second trimester, and she got fired because she fell asleep on the job and instead of being walked out, because whenever a person gets fired, the manager who fires them has to walk them off into the property and that manager didn’t do that. She said that she has to collect herself in the bathroom and he didn’t make sure that she came out of the bathroom so she was given free rein of the property.”
That same night, the woman was found dead at the facility. Another report suggests she fell to her death.
UPS declined to comment on the case but insisted to the Guardian that the safety of its employees is its “first priority” and there are falsehoods circulating on social media: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of our employee and extend our sympathies to her family and friends. We do not share personal employment and health-related information about our employees, although you should know that there are a number of inaccurate posts on social media about this tragedy.” One such post on Facebook reads: “My heart is broken for this young woman’s family and friends. All because UPS swept her mental health under the rug when she asked for help MULTIPLE times. They didn’t even stop production in that building during the cleanup. Do better, PLEASE!”
Employees—who all spoke anonymously to the outlet for fear of retaliation—have corroborated that UPS has forced its employees to endure a host of unjust workplace conditions. When describing said conditions to the Guardian, more than one claimed they suffer “quota pressures,” regular injuries on the job, an unsafe and unclean environment, and outdated equipment. They also claim understaffing, round-the-clock surveillance, and threats of termination—for anything from going to the bathroom too often to being late—have only worsened the aforementioned.
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“We’re constantly being watched and scrutinized and everything that we do is never good enough,” one employee said. “I have walked out of the building in tears before because I’m just so physically and mentally exhausted.”
“A lot of people talk about how the younger generation seems like they can’t keep a job or that they’re lazy or they don’t want to work. But the thing is, a lot of us are exerting every ounce of our mental energy to go to work every day and deal with the work conditions that we’ve been put into,” another UPS worker said. “If workers are not in a good mental state, they cannot work, and if they are forced to continue to work in those conditions, things like this will continue to happen.”
Some employees said they’ve brought concerns of poorly-functioning machinery, productivity pressures, and unsafe conditions to their superiors at UPS, but they’ve fallen on deaf ears. Others said they’re too frightened as the company offers high-paying entry-level work and they don’t want to lose the opportunity.
“People at UPS don’t feel like they have any power over their lives or ability to sustain themselves with their work and that with how demanding, physically and emotionally, it is to be working at a place with zero accountability, thankfully I have mental healthcare but there are other people who live with conditions like mine who are at a greater risk of suicide and in workplace conditions like this, it can only exacerbate that,” another anonymous employee explained. “I would like to see UPS actually take better care of its employees and treat them like human beings instead of robots that just shuffle packages all night at enormous volumes.”
No further details about the former employee’s death have been released at this time.