New York Attorney General Letitia James sued Amazon on Tuesday night, alleging the company repeatedly violated COVID-19 protocols amid the pandemic.
James’ lawsuit accuses two Amazon facilities of violating COVID protocols and unlawfully disciplining and firing employees who complained about the alleged violations. The suit follows an investigation into the facilities launched in March last year.
“While Amazon and its CEO made billions during this crisis, hardworking employees were forced to endure unsafe conditions and were retaliated against for rightfully voicing these concerns,” James said in a statement. “Since the pandemic began, it is clear that Amazon has valued profit over people and has failed to ensure the health and safety of its workers. The workers who have powered this country and kept it going during the pandemic are the very workers who continue to be treated the worst.”
“As we seek to hold Amazon accountable for its actions, my office remains dedicated to protecting New York workers from exploitation and unfair treatment in all forms,” James added.
According to James, the online retailer would not sufficiently contact trace employees who tested positive for COVID-19 and ignored many employees who reported coming into contact with someone who later tested positive for the illness. Amazon also failed to shut down parts of its facilities where outbreaks of COVID-19 happened.
The state attorney general’s investigation uncovered two alleged instances of illegal retaliation against employees for reporting concerns over Amazon’s pandemic protocols and cases of COVID identified at the facility. James’ suit seeks to force Amazon to award backpay and damages to its employees, as well as forfeit all profit made while the company was in alleged violation of the law.
In March, former Amazon worker Chris Smalls, mentioned in James’ lawsuit, claimed he was fired by the online retailer for leading a strike against it for violating COVID protocols. Amazon claimed that Smalls was fired after he had repeatedly violated COVID protocols during work. As The Daily Wire reported:
Chris Smalls said he was fired Monday after he organized the strike, CNBC confirmed. Amazon told the outlet that Smalls was fired because he ignored “multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines” and refused to quarantine himself even though he had contact with another worker who tested positive for COVID-19.
“Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, further putting the teams at risk,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC. “This is unacceptable and we have terminated his employment as a result of these multiple safety issues.”
Smalls released his own statement.
“Amazon would rather fire workers than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us, our families, and our communities safe,” Smalls said in a statement to media outlets. “I am outraged and disappointed, but I’m not shocked. As usual, Amazon would rather sweep a problem under the rug than act to keep workers and working communities safe.”
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