Amazon sued New York attorney general, Letitia James, on Friday to prevent her from making charges against the company over safety concerns at two of its warehouses in New York City. .
The company also asked the court to force Ms. James to declare that she had no authority to regulate workplace safety during the Covid-19 pandemic or to investigate allegations of retaliation against employees who opposed the their working conditions.
In the case filed with New York’s Eastern District Court, Amazon said Ms James’s office was investigating pandemic safety concerns caused by staff at their large fulfillment center on Staten Island. and at a delivery warehouse in Queens. It said Ms. James had “threatened to sue” Amazon if it did not agree with her demands, including subsidizing bus services, reducing worker productivity requirements, reducing profits and restoring. Christian Smalls, a worker fired by Amazon in the spring.
Mr. Smalls said he was retaliated against for leading a protest at the Staten Island warehouse. Amazon said he was fired for arriving at the work site for the protest even though he was on paid quarantine after he was in contact with a colleague who tested positive for coronavirus.
Mr Smalls has become the most conspicuous instance of worker clashes with Amazon, where it faces a surge in consumer orders. As the pandemic spread across the country, many Amazon workers said the company missed early opportunities to provide better protection against Covid-19.
Amazon vigorously defended its security measures and attacked critics. In a note from an internal meeting of senior executives, top Amazon attorneys called Mr. Smalls anarchist and discussed strategies to make him the face of the workers’ organization. .
In its 64-page complaint, Amazon said its safety measures “go beyond what is required by law” and argued that federal law, not state law by the New York attorney general. enforce, which has primary oversight over safety concerns in the workplace.
“The OAG lacks the legal authority it intends to use against Amazon,” the company said.
Amazon declined to comment on the submission.
Ms. James, in a statement, said that the lawsuit was “nothing more than a sad attempt to distract the truth and avoid responsibility for failure to protect hard-working employees from one kind.” deadly virus ”.
Her office is looking at legal options, she said. “Let me be clear: We will not be intimidated by anyone, especially corporate bullies who put profits above the health and safety of those who work,” she said.
James Brudney, a professor of labor law at Fordham University, said it is rare for companies to file “oh my god” lawsuits like Amazon.
“They want to fight,” he said of Amazon. “They always want to fight.”
Mr. Brudney said federal law imposes safety enforcement in the state workplace in many cases, although there are exceptions that James can argue.
“It seems plausible to see if the state can prove its case,” he said. He added that federal oversight had “terribly and miserably failed” to create and enforce the pandemic workplace safety, so states have been working to address the problem. holes.
Much of Amazon’s complaint details its pandemic response, including setting up a temperature test at the entrance, providing a mask, and offering a free on-site test. It said, according to its calculations, 1.15% of New York frontline staff had a positive or presumed coronavirus positive test result, half the rate for the general population in the state. .
The complaint was also cited from an email documenting the New York City Sheriff’s Office’s unannounced inspection of Staten Island’s warehouse on March 30 that said Amazon “appears to have exceeded current compliance requirements ”.