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New York Sues Amazon for Weak COVID-19 Response

Trisha Sebastian

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Amazon logo on the facade of one of their corporate office buildings located in Silicon Valley-New York Sues Amazon-ss-featured

The Attorney General of New York sues Amazon, the online retail giant over allegations of worker safety. Allegedly, the company failed to provide enough protection for workers during the pandemic. Last Tuesday, Attorney General Letitia James filed suit that Amazon violated labor laws. The company provided a deficient response to the pandemic for its workers.

RELATED: Amazon Wants To Help With COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

New York Sues Amazon

New York’s lawsuit claims that the company failed its workers.  They didn’t close their facilities even after finding out about COVID-19 outbreaks. It also failed to notify workers that might have had contact with infected co-workers. Employees also weren’t allowed to decide on their own. This covers matters such as conducting cleanings or practicing social distancing.

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“Throughout the historic pandemic, Amazon has repeatedly and persistently failed to comply with its obligation to institute reasonable and adequate measures to protect its workers from the spread of the virus” in its New York City facilities, which include a fulfillment center on Staten Island and a distribution center in Queens, according to the complaint. “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,” it added.

Amazon Disputes the Charges

Amazon disputed the charges, saying that the company does care about its workers. “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 Spokesperson Kelly Nantel told CNN Business.

The company anticipated the planned moves by the state. Last week, it filed a preemptive lawsuit before a federal court.  The suit wanted to block James from invoking state law to enforce certain policies. This includes requests for Amazon to subsidize public transit. In addition, James also asked that Amazon hire a health and safety consultant. The company said that James’ demands are exorbitant. In fact, Amazon said that its worker protection programs far exceed legal requirements. Meanwhile, James scoffed at the filing, believing it’s right that New York sues Amazon. It’s “a sad attempt to distract from the facts and shirk accountability for its failures to protect hard-working employees from a deadly virus,” according to the NY Attorney General.

Worker Protection

Amazon pointed to the company’s many COVID-19 policies. They implemented a temperature screening policy and put up signs advising social distancing. In addition, workers at its Staten Island facility work on staggering shifts. This helps reduce employee congestion. According to the company, even the NYC sheriff’s office declared “absolutely no areas of concern” on Amazon’s New York facilities.

However, many critics, including current Amazon workers, said the company acts too slow. For example, temperature screenings didn’t even start at Amazon until reports of worker outbreaks surfaced.

Overwhelming Orders During the Pandemic

Amazon faced criticism last year during the pandemic. Critics allege they didn’t act fast enough to keep workers safe. Amazon Warehouses got inundated with orders in 2020. People opted to shop online instead of going out to buy.

With increased demand came the need for more workers. Social distancing and other measures took second priority over overwhelming orders. As a result, Amazon said that by the fall of last year, nearly 20,000 of its U.S. employees tested or presumed positive.

Watch the Reuters news video reporting that New York’s Attorney General sues Amazon over worker safety:

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