On Tuesday, Feb. 16, the attorney general of New York sued Amazon over allegations that the company failed to adequately protect its employees during the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Attorney General Letitia James filed court documents with the New York Supreme Court suing Amazon over allegedly failing to properly enforce safety regulations at two of its facilities in the state, which employ more than 5,000 workers.
According to the lawsuit, Amazon failed to disinfect these two facilities when it found out that workers infected with the coronavirus had been present. The company also supposedly failed to contact workers that were exposed to the virus, and made employees work so much that the company didn’t have time to disinfect workstations or keep workers socially distant from each other.
“Throughout the historic pandemic, Amazon has repeatedly and persistently failed to comply with its obligation to institute reasonable and adequate measures to protect its workers from the spread of the virus in its New York City facilities,” read the suit.
“Amazon’s flagrant disregard for health and safety requirements has threatened serious illness and grave harm to the thousands of workers in these facilities and poses a continued substantial and specific danger to the public health.”
“While Amazon and its CEO made billions during this crisis, hardworking employees were forced to endure unsafe conditions,” said James.
This lawsuit comes several days after Amazon attempted to file a preemptive lawsuit against James. The company argued that the attorney general’s office does not have the legal power to intervene on matters of worker safety. It is suggesting that this matter should be handled by a federal court and by federal regulatory agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
In this lawsuit filed Friday, Feb. 12, Amazon argued that surprise inspections made by the New York City Sheriff’s Office found that its warehouses performed above and beyond safety requirements. Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel added on Wednesday that the company does not believe James’ lawsuit “presents an accurate picture of Amazon’s industry-leading response to the pandemic.”
The case comes as many politicians and government agencies are alleging that Amazon’s success during the pandemic comes off the backs of its thousands of underpaid and overworked employees. It has further entrenched its leading position in America’s e-commerce industry, and its stock has risen more than 50 percent in the past 12 months alone. (Related: Pandemic profiteering: Watchdog accuses Amazon of price gouging as Bezos’ wealth soars to $200 billion.)
“We care deeply about the health and safety of our employees, as demonstrated in our filing last week,” said Nantel in a statement provided to Reuters.
In its preemptive suit, Amazon listed some of the measures it supposedly employed to take care of its workers, including regular coronavirus testing, providing employees with personal protective equipment and implementing temperature checks in its facilities. The company also claims to have spent around $11.5 billion last year on COVID-19-related expenses.
Amazon also fired an employee who tried to raise concerns regarding working conditions
New York’s lawsuit against Amazon also accused the company of illegally dismissing an employee who publicly raised concerns regarding working conditions in Amazon’s warehouses.
In Amazon’s Staten Island fulfillment center, named JFK8, employees held a walkout to get the company to change its health and safety policies and to provide workers with hazard pay. This protest was one of many held by Amazon workers around the country who have argued that Amazon has not done enough to keep them safe against the coronavirus.
In the JFK8 demonstration, Christian Smalls, a process assistant and one of the employees who organized it, was fired soon after.
New York’s suit alleges Smalls’ firing was in retaliation for his mail role in the protest, as well as his posts on social media that are critical of Amazon. The suit also claims that two of the company’s employees in human resources have agreed in writing that Smalls should not have been let go.
The company argued that Smalls was dismissed because violated social distancing guidelines. Amazon said Smalls was ordered by his managers to quarantine after he came into contact with a co-worker who tested positive for coronavirus.
The attorney general’s lawsuit argued that Smalls never violated social distancing guidelines because he never entered the facility during the demonstration, and the company never asked him to leave JFK8’s parking lot where the protest was held.
Smalls is one of several other Amazon workers who have been claiming that they were wrongfully terminated by the company for speaking out.
Amazon claimed in its complaint last week that James threatened to sue the company if it did not concede to New York’s demands, which include decreasing its performance and production requirements and paying “large sums” of money to Smalls.
The lawsuit itself is asking New York’s highest court to offer Smalls his job back and to pay him for causing emotional distress as well as for other damages. The suit is also asking the court to make sure Amazon is protecting its workers by monitoring the company and forcing it to change its internal policies.
This latest case against Amazon adds to the many challenges the retail and e-commerce giant is facing. It is currently trying to prevent workers in one of its facilities in Alabama from voting to form a union. California is currently investigating how the company is treating its independent sellers in its online marketplace. Authorities in Connecticut are also investigating how Amazon sells and distributes its e-books.
Natural News has covered a lot of the violations Amazon has done in the past. Learn more about them by reading the articles at JeffBezosWatch.com.