Amazon has filed a lawsuit against the Office of the New York Attorney General (OAG) for allegedly unlawfully attempting to subject it to state oversight of activities concerning its COVID-19 response and the termination of its activist employee Christian Smalls.
In March, Amazon fired Smalls for repeatedly violating “social distancing requirements and an order to quarantine and stay off Amazon property” after coming into contact with a person who tested positive for the virus. According to Smalls, upon learning of its employees testing positive, Amazon failed to issue directives to quarantine workers; he organized several protests and demonstrations in this regard.
In light of this, Attorney General Letitia James called upon the National Labor Relations Board to launch an investigation into the incident. The OAG issued a statement:
It is disgraceful that Amazon would terminate an employee who bravely stood up to protect himself and his colleagues. At the height of a global pandemic, Chris Smalls and his colleagues publicly protested the lack of precautions that Amazon was taking to protect them from COVID-19. Today, Chris Smalls was fired. In New York, the right to organize is codified into law, and any retaliatory action by management related thereto is strictly prohibited. At a time when so many New Yorkers are struggling and are deeply concerned about their safety, this action was also immoral and inhumane. The Office of the Attorney General is considering all legal options, and I am calling on the National Labor Relations Board to investigate this incident.
In November, Smalls filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of African American and Latino workers, alleging that Amazon did not follow basic precautions and endangered the health, safety and survival of its workers and facilities.
Amazon is asserting in its lawsuit that it has taken “extraordinary, industry-leading measures” to protect its employees from COVID-19, and claims that the AG’s office lacked “legal authority to regulate workplace safety responses to COVID-19 or claims of retaliation against workers who protest working conditions.”