The New York Attorney General is suing Amazon for COVID-19 safety protocols, accusing the company of making more money than protecting its workers from getting sick.
The case, filed late Tuesday, involves two Amazon facilities in New York, which employ over 5,000 workers. He claims that Amazon failed to disinfect these facilities when infected workers were present; did not contact workers when exposed to the virus; and made employees work so hard that they didn’t have time to disinfect their workstations or stay socially distant.
“While Amazon and its CEO made billions during this crisis, hard-working employees were forced to endure dangerous conditions,” said New York Attorney General Leticia James, who filed the lawsuit.
The suit landed just days after Amazon filed a lawsuit to block it. In its own case, filed Friday, Amazon said unannounced inspections by the New York City Sheriff’s Office found that the warehouse in New York exceeded and exceeded safety requirements. On Wednesday, Amazon spokesman Kelly Nantel added that the prosecutor’s lawsuit did not provide an accurate picture of Amazon’s reaction to the virus.
The pandemic has revealed how Amazon, the country’s second-largest private employer, treats its workers who pack and ship orders. Some protested the lack of masks and protective equipment, while others said the company did not yet know how many people were getting sick. In a warehouse in Alabama, nearly 6,000 workers vote about whether they want to join a union, the largest union in Amazon history. Among the demands of the union organizers is Amazon, whose profits and revenues jumped sharply during the pandemic, to treat workers with respect and give them more breaks.
The lack of sufficient breaks was also raised in the case. It says Amazon is constantly monitoring workers and that those who do not work at all times may have problems or be fired. This has forced workers to return from breaks and not take the time to wash their hands, clean their workstations or stay socially distant, according to the complaint.
In addition to potentially exposing workers to the virus, the lawsuit also says Amazon is illegally retaliating against workers who have spoken out about poor safety at their facilities.
One of those workers, Christian Smalls, was fired from Amazon in March after he protested at the Staten Island warehouse. Amazon said it terminated Smalls because it violated social distancing guidelines. But the trial said Smalls never entered the facility during the protest and the company never told him to leave the parking lot where the protest took place. It is also said that two human resources staff at Amazon agreed in writing that Smalls should not have been fired.
The dismissal had a chilling effect on others, the lawsuit said, and Amazon workers feared they could retaliate if they made any health or safety complaints.
In the case, James asked the court to force Seattle-based Amazon to offer Smalls his job and pay him for emotional stress and other damages. He also wants the court to make sure that Amazon protects the health of its employees by monitoring the company and forcing it to change its policy.
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