New York Attorney General, Letitia James, sued Amazon on Tuesday night, arguing that the company provided inadequate safety protection for workers in New York City during the pandemic and paid The staff raised concerns about the conditions.
The incident focused on two Amazon facilities: a large warehouse on Staten Island and a delivery warehouse in Queens. Ms. James argued that Amazon did not properly clean its buildings, conducted inadequate contact follow-up on known Covid-19 cases and “prompt retaliation” to silence complaints from workers.
“Amazon’s dreadful profits and exponential growth come at the expense of the lives, health and safety of its frontline employees,” James argued in a lawsuit filed with the Court. New York Supreme Court.
Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesman, said the company cares “deeply about the health and safety” of its workers.
“We do not believe that the attorney general’s record gives an accurate picture of Amazon’s leading industry response to the pandemic,” said Ms. Nantel.
Last week, Amazon sued Ms. James in federal court to prevent her from making the charges. Workplace safety, the company argues, is a federal, not state, law issue.
In its 64-page complaint last week, Amazon said its safety measures “go far beyond what is required by law.” It cites a surprise inspection by the New York City Sheriff’s Office that found Amazon “appears to have gone beyond current compliance requirements”. The company also detailed other safety measures it has taken, including temperature testing and providing a free Covid-19 test on site.
New York, in its lawsuit, said Amazon had received written notice about at least 250 employees at its Staten Island warehouse containing Covid-19. In more than 90 of those cases, infected employees went to work the previous week, but Amazon did not close parts of the building to provide proper ventilation as required by the state, lake she said.
Ms. James said that until at least the end of June, Amazon did not interview infected workers to determine their close connections and relied instead on reviewing surveillance footage, It may take three days and does not include the entire warehouse. The lack of interviews “created a very time consuming process without identifying close contacts in time,” the complaint said.
She also claims that Amazon retaliated against Christian Smalls, a worker the company fired in the spring. Mr. Smalls raised safety concerns with regulators and led a public protest at the Staten Island facility’s parking lot.
Amazon said Mr Smalls was fired for arriving at the work site for the protest even though he was on paid quarantine after meeting with a colleague who tested positive for coronavirus.
Ms. James’s profile states that two Amazon human resources employees discussed Mr. Smalls’ situation in writing. The employees said they thought it was unfair to fire him because he did not enter the building and because Amazon did not tell him that the company’s quarantine policy prohibited him from leaving the premises.
Ms. James said that by firing Mr. Smalls and reprimanding another protest leader, Amazon sent a chilling message to the others.
“Amazon employees fear that if they make legitimate health and safety complaints about Amazon’s Covid-19 response, Amazon will retaliate, too,” she argued.
The state says Amazon should change its policy, conduct safety training and supervision, pay for Mr Smalls’ lost wages and other damages and invite him back to work.