The New York Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Amazon over its failures to provide adequate health and safety measures for employees at the company’s New York facilities and Amazon’s retaliatory actions against multiple employees amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
An investigation into Amazon started in March 2020 following numerous complaints about the lack of precautions taken to protect employees in Amazon facilities as New York was ravaged by COVID-19.
The investigation was later broadened to examine whether Amazon unlawfully fired or disciplined employees who reported these safety concerns. In particular, the investigation focused on two facilities with a combined workforce of more than 5,000 individuals.
The investigation uncovered evidence showing that Amazon’s health and safety response violated state law with respect to cleaning and disinfection protocols, contact tracing, and generally permitting employees to take necessary precautions to protect themselves from the risk of COVID-19 infection, among other things.
For example, Amazon was notified of at least 250 employees at the Staten Island facility who had positive COVID-19 tests or diagnoses, with more than 90 of those individuals present in the facility within seven days of notification to Amazon. However, in all but seven of these instances, Amazon failed to close any portion of the facility after learning of the positive cases.
Additionally, Amazon implemented an inadequate COVID-19 tracing program that failed to consistently identify workers who came into close contact with employees who tested positive for COVID-19. On occasions when a worker reported having close contact with a coworker with a positive COVID-19 test, Amazon dismissed the worker’s concerns and did not investigate or follow up on the reports.
The evidence also demonstrates that Amazon unlawfully fired and disciplined workers who reported their concerns about Amazon’s compliance with these health and safety mandates.
The lawsuit, filed in the Supreme Court of New York County, argues that Amazon’s actions are in violation of New York labor, whistleblower protection, and anti-retaliation laws. The suit seeks broad injunctive relief and damages, including:
– – Requiring Amazon to take all affirmative steps, including changing policies, conducting training, and undergoing monitoring, among others, to ensure that Amazon reasonably and adequately protects the lives, health, and safety of its employees.
– – Awarding backpay, liquidated damages, emotional distress damages, and reinstatement for former employee Christian Smalls.
– – Awarding liquidated damages and emotional distress damages for employee Derrick Palmer.
– – Requiring Amazon to give up the profits it made as a result of its illegal acts.