Coronavirus

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

New York’s legal professional basic, Letitia James, sued Amazon on Tuesday night, arguing that the corporate supplied insufficient security safety for employees in New York Metropolis in the course of the pandemic and retaliated towards staff who raised considerations over the situations.

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

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

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

“We don’t imagine the legal professional basic’s submitting presents an correct image of Amazon’s industry-leading response to the pandemic,” Ms. Nantel mentioned.

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

In its 64-page criticism final week, Amazon mentioned its security measures “far exceed what’s required below 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, mentioned Amazon obtained written notification of a minimum of 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 mentioned.

Ms. James mentioned that till a minimum of late June, Amazon didn’t interview contaminated employees to find out their shut contacts and as a substitute relied on reviewing surveillance footage, which may take three days and didn’t cowl your entire warehouse. The dearth of interviews “created a really time-consuming course of which didn’t establish shut contacts in a well timed style,” the criticism mentioned.

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

Amazon has mentioned Mr. Smalls was fired for going to the work web site for the protest despite the fact that he was on paid quarantine depart after he had been uncovered to a colleague who had examined optimistic for the coronavirus.

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

Ms. James mentioned 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 towards them as properly,” she argued.

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

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