New York Attorney General Letitia James sued Amazon on Tuesday night alleging that the e-commerce giant failed to adequately protect its workers during the pandemic and retaliated against workers who raised alarm about the situation, adding to the scrutiny about Amazon’s handling of worker safety at its various warehouses during the pandemic.
The Compliant, filed in the New York Supreme Court, focuses on “flagrant disregard for health and safety requirements” at two Amazon facilities in the state—a warehouse in Staten Island and a delivery depot in Queens—where the company allegedly failed to properly clean its buildings and conducted inadequate contact tracing for known Covid-19 cases.
The suit also alleges that Amazon “took swift retaliatory action” to silence workers after they began to make complaints about the conditions to Amazon management, government agencies, and the media.
The state’s filing highlights several incidents, including failing to close portions of the building for proper ventilation as required by the state and failing to interview infected workers for contact tracing.
The suit also alleges that Amazon retaliated against a worker, Christian Smalls, by firing him after he raised safety concerns with managers and led a public protest in the parking lot of the Staten Island facility.
“Amazon’s extreme profits and exponential growth rate came at the expense of the lives, health and safety of its frontline workers,” the state alleges in its suit.
Last week, Amazon preemptively sued the New York attorney general in a New York federal court attempting to stop her from bringing the charges. The company argued that workplace safety is a federal issue and asked the court to force James to declare that she did not have authority to regulate workplace safety during the pandemic or investigate allegations of the company retaliating against employees who protest their working conditions. Amazon in its suit argued that its safety measures “far exceed what is required under the law,” and cited a surprise inspection by the New York City Sheriff’s Office that found Amazon “appeared to go above and beyond the current compliance requirements.” In October, the company shared that nearly 20,000 of its workers tested positive for Covid-19, but it hasn’t provided an updated number since. The e-commerce giant has also announced that it will provide upto $80 in benefit—$40 per dose—to employees to take the Covid-19 vaccine off site.