Feb 17, 2021 - Economy

New York sues Amazon over workers' protection during pandemic

A worker wheels a cart of Amazon packages during a delivery in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 13

A worker wheels a cart of Amazon packages during a delivery in New York in October. Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against Amazon Tuesday night over its handling of worker safety during the pandemic, alleging the retail giant hasn't complied with workplace rules.

Details: In the suit, James also alleges that Amazon illegally retaliated when employees expressed concerns about conditions last spring, when it fired an activist following a protest by workers at a warehouse on New York's Staten Island.

  • "Amazon's flagrant disregard for health and safety requirements has threatened serious illness and grave harm to the thousands of workers in these facilities and poses a continued substantial and specific danger to the public health," James said in the suit.

For the record: Amazon filed a lawsuit against James last Friday in an attempt to stop her suing the company, arguing that worker safety claims during the pandemic are federal matters, so she would be overstepping her authority to do so.

Background: James began an investigation into Amazon following the Staten Island protest and the firing of organizers including Christian Smalls — who filed a class-action lawsuit against the e-commerce firm.

  • James argued the state had codified the right to organize in its law so the company's action raised concerns about illegal retaliation.

The other side: Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in an emailed statement to Axios, "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."

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