New York state sues Amazon over warehouse safety amid Covid-19

NEW YORK (AFP) – New York state’s attorney-general on Wednesday (Feb 17) sued Amazon, claiming the e-commerce giant failed to adequately protect its warehouse workers from risks during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The move comes days after Amazon filed its own legal action seeking to block New York state Attorney-General Letitia James from taking steps to enforce federal workplace safety regulations.

Wednesday’s lawsuit in state court stems from an investigation begun in March 2020 following complaints about employee safety in Amazon facilities as the company ramped up to meet demands of locked-down consumers.

“While Amazon and its CEO made billions during this crisis, hardworking employees were forced to endure unsafe conditions and were retaliated against for rightfully voicing these concerns,” James said in a statement.

“Since the pandemic began, it is clear that Amazon has valued profit over people and has failed to ensure the health and safety of its workers”.

Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel disputed the claims of the lawsuit.

“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,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

The legal action follows a series of protests at Amazon facilities during the pandemic over safety and working conditions. The company has argued it has invested billions in virus mitigation efforts.

The lawsuit by James asks that Amazon “take all affirmative steps” to protect workers from Covid-19 risks and to award back pay and damages to fired employee Christian Smalls and emotional distress damages for employee Derrick Palmer, who complained about working conditions.

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