New York Attorney General Letitia James has sued Amazon for allegedly failing to protect its workers in two New York City facilities at Staten Island and Queens, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the lawsuit filed in New York County Supreme Court on Tuesday, Attorney General Letitia James has alleged that Amazon has “repeatedly and persistently failed” to take adequate measures to protect its workers in its Staten Island and Queen’s warehouses.
“Since at least March 2020 when the COVID-19 outbreak began to devastate New York City, Amazon failed to comply with requirements for cleaning and disinfection when infected workers had been present in its facilities. Amazon failed to adequately identify and notify potential contacts of such infected workers; and Amazon failed to ensure that its discipline and productivity policies, and productivity rates automated by line-speeds, permitted its employees to take the time necessary to engage in hygiene, sanitation, social-distancing, and necessary cleaning practices,” states the legal filing.
It adds, “Amazon’s response to the pandemic continues to be deficient. First, Amazon has failed and continues to fail to close all or a portion of its facilities for the requisite ventilation, cleaning, and disinfection when an infected worker has been present in the facility within seven days. By Amazon’s own account, it has failed to undertake these measures on at least eighty occasions in the JFK8 facility alone.”
In the lawsuit, James also accused the tech giant of retaliating against its employees — including firing one worker, Christian Smalls, who called out the company for not complying with health regulations, claiming that it profited billions off of its workers at the expense of exposing them to the virus. “Over the course of the pandemic, Amazon netted more $130 billion in profits from online sales—representing 35% growth from its pre-pandemic earnings and a 10% higher growth rate than in prior years—at the expense of its frontline workers who have experienced significant risks of COVID-19 infection while working at Amazon,” the suit charges.
Reacting to the lawsuit, Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said that the company stands by its response to the pandemic and that James’ accusations are inaccurate.
“We care deeply about the health and safety of our employees, as demonstrated in our filing last week, and we don’t believe the Attorney General’s filing presents an accurate picture of Amazon’s industry-leading response to the pandemic,” said Nantel.