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New York attorney general sues Amazon over COVID-19 response lapse

New York attorney general sues Amazon over COVID-19 response lapse

New York attorney general (AG) has sued online retail giant Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) over the handling of worker safety guidelines in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the February 16, 2021 filing, AG Letitia James focuses on the retailer’s handling of two warehouses located on Staten Island and a delivery depot in Queens.

The AG argues that Amazon failed to offer adequate safety protection for workers in the two warehouses. James adds that the retailer retaliated against employees who raised concerns over the conditions.

She cited the March incident where Amazon fired activist Christian Smalls for allegedly violating a paid quarantine. The activist initially led a protest regarding the conditions at the Staten Island warehouse. James adds that by firing Smalls, Amazon was sending a chilling message to other employees. James argues that: 

“Amazon employees reasonably fear that if they make legitimate health and safety complaints about Amazon’s Covid-19 response, Amazon will retaliate against them as well.”

James further alleges that Amazon failed to properly clean its buildings, conduct efficient contact tracing for known COVID-19 cases. She notes that Amazon’s growth came at the expense of human life while cutting corners to avoid following the law. The lawsuit states that:

“Throughout the historic pandemic, Amazon has repeatedly and persistently failed to comply with its obligation to institute reasonable and adequate measures to protect its workers. Amazon has cut corners in complying with the particular requirements that would most jeopardize its sales volume and productivity rates.”

Amazon dismisses lawsuit on COVID-19 violations

The company’s spokesperson, identified as Kelly Nantel, insists that Amazon cares about employee safety while disregarding the lawsuit’s contents. Amazon cites the company’s temperature screening policy, signs advising social distancing, and employee shifts at its Staten Island facility as strict measures put in place to protect workers.

“We don’t believe the attorney general’s filing presents an accurate picture of Amazon’s industry-leading response to the pandemic,” Nantel said.

The lawsuit wants also the court to compel Amazon to upgrade its protections for workers and reinstate sacked employees. 

The New York AG filing means that Amazon’s initial suit barring James from suing the company failed. Amazon had filed its lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court to stop her from suing. Amazon argues that through the lawsuit, James was overstepping her mandate. 

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