Jury seats Eighteen months after its debut, Amazon’s new hearing process has created resentment and raised questions about fairness. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Jane was working in Amazon.com Inc.’s Seattle headquarters when she was asked to a meeting with her manager and a human resources representative. They gave her a document outlining concerns about her work performance and spelled out three choices. She could quit and receive severance pay, spend the next several weeks trying to keep her job by meeting certain performance goals, or square off with her manager in a videoconference version of the Thunderdome, pleading her case with a panel of co-workers while her boss argued against her. Jane, who asked that her real name not be used to discuss a personal matter, chose the last one.

The employee appeal process is Amazon’s latest experiment in managing its growing workforce of more than 500,000. When it announced the program last year, Amazon acknowledged it had been quick to fire people instead of trying to resolve problems in other ways. Executives recognized that poorly defined roles, dysfunctional teams, and peremptory managers were among the factors that often remained unexamined, according to a person familiar with the matter. Workers facing termination also lacked a forum to discuss such factors, the person says.

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