Lawsuit: Amazon Failed to Protect Warehouse Workers from Coronavirus

AURORA, CO - MAY 03: A worker moves packed boxes at the Amazon fullfillment center May 3, 2018 in Aurora, Colorado. The million square foot facility, employing 1,000 fulltime employees, has over 2 million products ready to ship to customers globally. (Photo by Rick T. Wilking/Getty Images)
Rick T. Wilking/Getty Images

Amazon failed to protect its employees from the coronavirus at a New York warehouse facility, according to a lawsuit filed by three employees from the warehouse.

AFP reported that the complaint filed in federal court Wednesday said the “relentless pace of work at Amazon facilities” led to poor working conditions and that company policies “discourage workers from leaving their workstations to wash their hands and from taking the time to wipe down their workstations.”

The legal action comes after one employee from Amazon’s Staten Island, New York, facility was fired for speaking out about the company’s response to the coronavirus.

Amazon, however, claimed the employee was disobeying protocol about what to do in the pandemic.

One of the three workers in the suit claimed they caught coronavirus “from workers who were explicitly or implicitly encouraged to continue attending work and prevented from adequately washing their hands or sanitizing their workstations,” according to the lawsuit.

The three workers and their families are seeking a number of changes, including a more transparent leave and sick time policy, better contact tracing for infected workers, and back pay for quarantine leave.

The complaint alleges that Amazon continued to allow workers on the job even after they made contact with infected individuals.

Amazon, which received high praise during the early part of the pandemic for hiring 175,000 additional employees to deal with increased demand, says it has improved its health and safety at its facilities.

“We are saddened by the tragic impact COVID-19 has had on communities across the globe, including on some Amazon team members and their family and friends. From early March to May 1, we offered our employees unlimited time away from work, and since May 1 we have offered leave for those most vulnerable or who need to care for children or family members,” a spokesperson for the tech giant said in a statement.

“We also invested $4 billion from April to June on COVID-related initiatives,” the statement continued, “including over $800 million in the first half of this year on safety measures like temperature checks, masks, gloves, enhanced cleaning and sanitization, extended pay and benefits options, testing, and more. This includes two weeks paid leave for any COVID diagnosis or quarantine, and launching a $25 million fund to support our partners and contractors.”

But Amazon has had trouble putting its money where its mouth is.

The company recently ended hazard pay for its warehouse workers instituted after the outbreak of the coronavirus while Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had a net worth increase of $32 billion since January.

The company’s record on censorship has also led much to be desired.

Amazon recently banned a book about the coronavirus from lockdown critic Alex Berenson after Bezos and company suggested that he, “Please consider removing references to COVID-19 for this book.” When Berenson refused, they banned his book from being featured on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Service.

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