Fired Amazon worker files discrimination lawsuit over pandemic conditions
A former Amazon worker who protested conditions at its New York City fulfillment center sued the retailer Thursday, accusing it of discrimination for firing him and for putting black and Hispanic workers at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
In a proposed class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn, Christian Smalls alleged Amazon it failed to provide the necessary protective equipment to its “predominantly minority” workforce, subjecting them to inferior working conditions than its primarily white managers.
Citing a leaked memo from Amazon’s general counsel to CEO Jeff Bezos Smalls also said Amazon fired him after concluding that, as a black man, he was a “weak spokesperson” for workers.
He also said that Amazon tried to win public support by making it the “face” of workers criticizing its response to the pandemic.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for black and Hispanic workers at the Staten Island facility.
Amazon fired Smalls on March 30, saying he joined a protest at the Staten Island facility despite being in paid quarantine, after he had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
It fired at least three other workers critical of its response to the pandemic in April, citing several alleged workplace violations.
New York Attorney General Letitia James wrote to Amazon in late April, expressing “serious concern” that it was trying to silence critics of its health and safety measures.
In a statement Thursday, Amazon spokeswoman Lisa Levandowski said Amazon’s focus on customers “is critical to our work on diversity and inclusion,” and that Smalls was fired for putting the health and safety of others at risk.
The Seattle-based company has benefited from the pandemic as consumers shop online more often.
Amazon has said that it expects to invest $ 10 billion (approximately Rs. 74.7 billion rupees) this year in COVID-19 initiatives to deliver products and keep employees safe, including by distributing masks to workers and spraying employment. of disinfectants and temperature controls around the world.
On October 1, Amazon said that 19,816 of its 1.37 million frontline American workers between March 1 and September 19 had tested positive or were presumed positive for the coronavirus.
He said it was 42 percent lower than if the infection rate had mirrored the rate in the general population.
Last week, a federal judge in Brooklyn dismissed a separate lawsuit accusing Amazon of creating a public nuisance at the Staten Island facility.
The case is Smalls v. Amazon Inc, US District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 20-05492.