New York Sues Amazon, Saying It Inadequately Protected Employees From Covid-19

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New York’s lawyer normal, Letitia James, sued Amazon on Tuesday night, arguing that the corporate supplied insufficient security safety for staff in New York Metropolis through the pandemic and retaliated in opposition to staff who raised issues over the situations.

The case focuses on two Amazon services: a big warehouse on Staten Island and a supply depot in Queens. Ms. James argues that Amazon did not correctly clear its buildings, performed insufficient contact tracing for recognized Covid-19 circumstances, and “took swift retaliatory motion” to silence complaints from staff.

“Amazon’s excessive income and exponential progress charge got here on the expense of the lives, well being and security of its frontline staff,” Ms. James argued within the grievance, filed in New York Supreme Courtroom.

Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for Amazon, stated the corporate cared “deeply in regards to the well being and security” of its staff.

“We don’t imagine the lawyer normal’s submitting presents an correct image of Amazon’s industry-leading response to the pandemic,” Ms. Nantel stated.

Final week, Amazon preemptively sued Ms. James in federal court docket in an try and cease her from bringing the costs. The corporate argued that office security was a matter of federal, not state, legislation.

In its 64-page grievance final week, Amazon stated its security measures “far exceed what’s required beneath the legislation.” It cited a shock inspection by the New York Metropolis Sheriff’s Workplace that discovered Amazon “appeared to go above and past the present compliance necessities.” The corporate additionally detailed different security measures it had taken, together with temperature checks and providing free Covid-19 testing on web site.

New York, in its go well with, stated Amazon acquired written notification of at the least 250 staff on the Staten Island warehouse who had Covid-19. In additional than 90 of these circumstances, the contaminated worker had been at work within the earlier week, but Amazon didn’t shut parts of the constructing to offer correct air flow because the state required, the submitting stated.

Ms. James stated that till at the least late June, Amazon didn’t interview contaminated staff to find out their shut contacts and as a substitute relied on reviewing surveillance footage, which might take three days and didn’t cowl all the warehouse. The shortage of interviews “created a really time-consuming course of which didn’t establish shut contacts in a well timed style,” the grievance stated.

She additionally argued that Amazon retaliated in opposition to Christian Smalls, a employee the corporate fired within the spring. Mr. Smalls had been elevating security issues with managers and led a public protest within the car parking zone of the Staten Island facility.

Amazon has stated Mr. Smalls was fired for going to the work web site for the protest although he was on paid quarantine go away after he had been uncovered to a colleague who had examined optimistic for the coronavirus.

Ms. James’s submitting stated two Amazon human assets staff mentioned Mr. Smalls’s state of affairs in writing. The staff stated they thought it was unfair to fireplace him as a result of he didn’t enter the constructing and since Amazon had not informed him that the corporate’s quarantine coverage prohibited him from being outdoors the ability.

Ms. James stated that by firing Mr. Smalls and reprimanding one other protest chief, Amazon despatched a chilling message to others.

“Amazon staff moderately concern that in the event that they make respectable well being and security complaints about Amazon’s Covid-19 response, Amazon will retaliate in opposition to them as nicely,” she argued.

The state stated Amazon ought to change its insurance policies, conduct coaching and endure security monitoring, and that it ought to pay misplaced wages and different damages to Mr. Smalls and provide him his job again.

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