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Class-action lawsuit against Amazon claims tech giant put ‘thousands of minority workers at risk’

A fired Amazon worker has filed a class-action lawsuit against the tech giant, alleging thousands of minority line workers were put at risk and faced unequal protections from COVID-19 compared to white managers.

The lawsuit accusing the company of racial bias was filed on Thursday by Christian Smalls, who is black, in US district court in the Eastern District of New York on behalf of a slew of black and Hispanic workers at the company’s Staten Island facility and across the country. 

The lawsuit is the latest attack against Amazon, which saw business boom in the pandemic and owner Jeff Bezos only grow richer, even as workers felt at risk. 

In October Amazon confirmed that nearly 20,000 of its US workers had tested positive or were presumed positive for COVID-19.

In the complaint Smalls, who started working for Amazon in 2015, says that he confronted his supervisors after a friend at the facility tested positive for the virus. But, they declined to issue a quarantine order for those who had come into contact with the infected employee.

The facility’s managers further allegedly ignored guidance from state and federal public health officials, failed to provide workers with protective equipment and failed to establish social distancing guidelines in response to Small’s flag of insufficient safety measures in place, according to CNN. 

Fired Amazon worker Christian Smalls filed a class-action lawsuit against the company on Thursday alleging thousands minority workers were put at risk during pandemic. He was fired in March after he attended a protest decrying poor safety conditions outside his facility when he was under quarantining

Fired Amazon worker Christian Smalls filed a class-action lawsuit against the company on Thursday alleging thousands minority workers were put at risk during pandemic. He was fired in March after he attended a protest decrying poor safety conditions outside his facility when he was under quarantining

Amazon allegedly failed to provide workers with PPE, failed to establish social distancing guidelines, and didn't tell workers exposed to COVID to quarantine, according to the complaint. Protesters pictured outside the Staten Island Amazon facility decrying unsafe working conditions above on March 30

Amazon allegedly failed to provide workers with PPE, failed to establish social distancing guidelines, and didn’t tell workers exposed to COVID to quarantine, according to the complaint. Protesters pictured outside the Staten Island Amazon facility decrying unsafe working conditions above on March 30

Smalls filed the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of all Amazon employees that were unprotected during the pandemic

Smalls filed the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of all Amazon employees that were unprotected during the pandemic

In a Thursday press conference held via Zoom Smalls said Amazon’s ‘white managers were being quarantined, one by one’, while line workers were told that the managers were simply going on vacation.

Smalls was fired during the pandemic after organizing a protest outside the JFK8 fulfillment center in Staten Island to highlight unsafe working conditions there amid the pandemic.

Amazon tells DailyMail.com they terminated Smalls on grounds that he put others at risk by violating his paid quarantine to join that demonstration, even after he was exposed to a confirmed case of the virus.

‘We terminated Mr. Smalls for putting the health and safety of others at risk and violations of his terms of his employment,’ an Amazon spokesperson said. 

‘Mr. Smalls received multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines. He was also found to have had close contact with a diagnosed associate with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and was asked to remain home with pay for 14-days. Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite further putting the teams at risk.’ 

Smalls alleged Amazon violated federal civil rights by terminating his employment and by putting minority Amazon workers at risk during the pandemic. 

The suit calls for compensation for Smalls and improved protective measures for Amazon workers who handle packages at the company’s facilities as the coronavirus pandemic only worsens. 

Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski tells DailyMail.com that the company is dedicated to ‘diversity and inclusion’, but did not comment directly on the suit. 

Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski tells DailyMail.com that the company is dedicated to 'diversity and inclusion', but did not comment directly on the suit. CEO Jeff Bezos above

Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski tells DailyMail.com that the company is dedicated to ‘diversity and inclusion’, but did not comment directly on the suit. CEO Jeff Bezos above

Smalls has denounced Amazon several times following his firing, arguing that the company failed to assure there were coronavirus safeguards for all employees.  

Smalls claims coronavirus safety measures were only added after he was fired.  

Amazon revealed in October that 19,816 employees have had COVID-19 between March 1 and September 19, which marks about 1.44 percent of the 1,372,000 front-line workers employed by Amazon during that period, as per the Washington Post.

In an October 21 update on Amazon’s website the company announced boosted safety measures to ensure employee safety including enhanced cleaning, social distancing measures, disinfectant spray use, personal protective gear distributions and temperature checks. Those who catch COVID-19 will receive up to two weeks of paid time off, according to the update.  

Nurses, other union workers and activists gather with Amazon employees for a May Day-related protest in front of an Amazon distribution warehouse in Staten Island, New York on May 1

Nurses, other union workers and activists gather with Amazon employees for a May Day-related protest in front of an Amazon distribution warehouse in Staten Island, New York on May 1

Smalls said Thursday 'white managers were being quarantined, one by one', while line workers were told that the managers were simply going on vacation. A view of a May 1 protest decrying the poor working conditions at the Staten Island Amazon facility above

Smalls said Thursday ‘white managers were being quarantined, one by one’, while line workers were told that the managers were simply going on vacation. A view of a May 1 protest decrying the poor working conditions at the Staten Island Amazon facility above 

Protests by Amazon employees have unfolded nationwide decrying the work conditions during the tense, early days of the pandemic. In March, Amazon workers in Spain and Italy joined the US and across Europe in signing a petition demanding Amazon adopt stricter safety guidelines. A view of an Amazon facility in Frankenthal, Germany above on October 13

Protests by Amazon employees have unfolded nationwide decrying the work conditions during the tense, early days of the pandemic. In March, Amazon workers in Spain and Italy joined the US and across Europe in signing a petition demanding Amazon adopt stricter safety guidelines. A view of an Amazon facility in Frankenthal, Germany above on October 13

This isn’t the first attack against the delivery giant.

Protests by Amazon employees have unfolded nationwide decrying the work conditions during the tense, early days of the pandemic. 

In March, Amazon workers in Spain and Italy joined the US and across Europe in signing a petition demanding Amazon adopt stricter safety guidelines.

In April, New York Attorney General Letitia James launched an investigation, which Smalls cooperated in.

Just last week a federal judge tossed out a case alleging unsafe working conditions at the Staten Island Amazon facility saying that courts didn’t have the place to dictate workplace safety requirements in the pandemic.

Michael Sussman, one of Smalls’ attorneys representing him in litigation, said the Thursday lawsuit is different because it alleges racial discrimination, not workplace law.

‘We would suggest that the cavalier attitude that Amazon took was because they were black and brown people who were primarily impacted at this facility,’ CJ Hoffler, another one of Smalls’ attorneys representing him in litigation said.

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