Amazon Accused of Worker Safety Failures During COVID-19

The New York AG lawsuit demands that Amazon amend its practices to better protect the welfare of employees. Also, develop new procedures for training and safety monitoring.

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On Tuesday, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a complaint in the state supreme court against Amazon. She alleged that the company neglected to protect its workers early in the COVID-19 pandemic. The news was reported yesterday by The New York Times. It follows Amazon’s decision earlier this month to sue the New York AG office preemptively to prevent James from bringing charges. Thus attempting to have jurisdiction over his New York workplace security measures to be considered a federal issue, not under the jurisdiction of the state AG.

“In the 31-page complaint, James argued, “Amazon’s extreme profits and rapid growth rate came at the cost of its frontline employees’ lives, health, and safety. “The flagrant disregard of Amazon’s health and safety requirements has threatened the thousands of workers in these facilities with serious illness and serious harm and poses a continuing substantial and specific public health risk.”

Amazon faces backlash over Covid-19 safety measures - BBC News

Lawsuit against Amazon

The lawsuit cites several suspected crimes arising from the treatment of New York City workers by Amazon at a Staten Island warehouse facility and a Queen’s delivery facility. These include the alleged failure of Amazon to alert workers promptly. When they were in touch with employees who tested positive for the coronavirus. The alleged insufficient and “legally deficient” contact tracing steps of Amazon to control outbreaks.

The alleged failure of Amazon to shut down and sanitize parts of its facilities that housed positive-testing employees. The lawsuit also outlines Amazon’s alleged retaliation against staff, including Christian Smalls, a fired Staten Island warehouse worker, who vocally criticized the working conditions of the organization and helped organize a major March demonstration against its handling of the coronavirus. “Amazon employees are reasonably afraid that Amazon will also retaliate against them if they make legitimate health and safety complaints about Amazon’s Covid-19 response,” James wrote.

Vice News Reports

Last year, Smalls made national headlines when he was shot after assisting in organizing the worker strike.  Amazon claimed it was that by attending a demonstration outside the Staten Island plant. Smalls breached the corporate policy that he employed after he was ordered to stay home on paid leave because he was exposed to a positive research colleague.

Nevertheless, leaked meeting notes published by Vice News last spring showed high-level company executives debating ways to slander Smalls and use him to undermine growing labor efforts trying to unionize the separate warehouse and Whole Foods employees of Amazon. Smalls is also pressing for racial discrimination against Amazon.

The New York AG lawsuit demands that Amazon amend its practices to better protect the welfare of employees. Also, develop new procedures for training and safety monitoring. And pay James lost wages and damages, as well as agree to rehire him. In Amazon’s 64-page complaint filed earlier this month against the AG’s office, the company claimed that it went above and beyond what state law required it to do.

Amazon said that it cared “deeply about the health and safety” of its warehouse workers. And it planned to tackle the lawsuit soon. “We don’t think the filing by the attorney general provides an accurate picture of Amazon’s industry-leading response to the pandemic,” said an Amazon spokesman.

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