Jim Watson/AFP through Getty Photos
New York Legal professional Basic Letitia James sued Amazon on Tuesday, claiming the huge e-commerce firm’s “flagrant disregard for well being and security necessities” in the course of the coronavirus pandemic put the lives of employees and most of the people in danger.
She accused the corporate of shoddy contact tracing and poor cleansing — each designed to forestall the unfold of the virus — at two New York amenities: a Staten Island achievement middle and a Queens distribution middle. A employee on the State Island plant warehouse died of COVID-19.
The Staten Island facility employs about 5,000 employees, and the Queens distribution middle employs a number of hundred employees — most of whom have been deemed important in the course of the pandemic, the submitting says.
James started investigating Amazon in March 2020 after receiving a number of complaints from present and former Amazon workers.
The corporate “did not comply with well being and security necessities” at its huge distribution hubs in violation of New York’s labor legal guidelines, James stated. Underneath state pointers, employers are required to offer “affordable and satisfactory safety” to their workers.
Amazon obtained written notification of not less than 250 workers on the Staten Island facility who had constructive COVID-19 assessments or diagnoses, of which greater than 90 employees had labored within the facility inside seven days of notifying Amazon.
The criticism says, “In additional than 80 of those situations, Amazon failed to shut any portion” of the Staten Island facility even after receiving documentation from employees of their constructive coronavirus assessments.
The legal professional basic stated in her court docket submitting, “Amazon has reduce corners in complying with the actual necessities that may most jeopardize its gross sales quantity and productiveness charges, there making certain outsize earnings at an unprecedented fee of progress for the corporate and its shareholders.”
The criticism notes Amazon’s monetary success in the course of the pandemic — with earnings of $130 billion.
James additionally accused Amazon of illegally retaliating in opposition to workers who publicly complained about insufficient security measures. Final March, Amazon fired employee activist Christian Smalls after he led a protest over circumstances on the Staten Island warehouse. The corporate stated Smalls had violated a compulsory quarantine order.
Amazon additionally issued a last written warning to worker Derrick Palmer, one other employee who demanded stronger security protections. Palmer and two different employees sued Amazon, claiming it did not comply with pointers set public well being companies. The lawsuit was thrown out.
New York’s lawsuit follows one filed Amazon — in a Brooklyn federal court docket — attempting to forestall James from submitting her personal. The corporate argues that federal labor and security legal guidelines take priority over New York’s legal guidelines, which suggests James doesn’t have the authorized authority to sue Amazon for office security violations.
Amazon did not instantly reply to NPR’s request for remark.
This lawsuit comes as practically 6,000 Amazon workers at a Bessemer, Ala., warehouse are voting on whether or not to unionize — an effort spawned partially over office security considerations in the course of the pandemic. If the employees are profitable, it will be the primary unionized Amazon warehouse within the U.S.
Editor’s observe: Amazon is amongst NPR’s latest monetary supporters.