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Lawsuit Argues Amazon Didn’t Present PPE for Staff Amid Pandemic

Amazon was recently hit with a lawsuit alleging one of its employees was wrongfully terminated.

A former Amazon warehouse employee recently hit the company with a lawsuit over allegations Amazon “failed to provide personal protective equipment to Black and Latinx workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Additionally, the suit argues the company “failed to properly protect its warehouse workers and violated elements of New York City’s human rights law, as well as federal and state laws.”

The former employee is Christian Smalls. When commenting on the suit, Smalls said:

“I was a loyal worker and gave my all to Amazon until I was unceremoniously terminated and tossed aside like yesterday’s trash because I insisted that Amazon protect its dedicated workers from COVID-19…I just wanted Amazon to provide basic protective gear to the workers and sanitize the workplace.”

Hand sanitizer and a face mask; image courtesy of Tai’s Captures via Unsplash, www.unsplash.com

So far Amazon has pushed back against the allegations, and Lisa Levandowski, a spokesperson for the company, said:

“Amazon’s mission is to be the earth’s most customer-centric company, and this mission is central to our work in diversity and inclusion…Diverse teams help us think bigger, and differently, about the products and services that we build for our customers and the day-to-day nature of our workplace – this is reinforced within our 14 Leadership Principles, which remind team members to seek diverse perspectives, learn and be curious, and constantly earn others’ trust.”

The recent lawsuit got the attention of Rev. Jesse Jackson, who also chimed in on the matter and said:

“COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black and Brown communities on so many levels, from warehouses to jailhouses…It’s an invisible enemy that is killing our communities. Chris’s case is a classic example of how corporate greed and insensitivity can literally expose communities to untold and unnecessary risks.”

What happened, though? What prompted the lawsuit? For starters, the suit alleges Smalls was terminated from Amazon back in March after he organized a “walkout at one of the company’s fulfillment centers in Staten Island.” Because of that termination, the attorney general of New York is investigating whether or not “Amazon violated federal worker safety laws and New York state’s whistleblower protections laws by firing Smalls.”

When asked if the allegations in the lawsuit were true, another spokesperson for Amazon said the company “did not fire Smalls for organizing a protest…Instead, it fired him for putting the health and safety of others at risk and violations of his terms of employment.” The spokesperson added:

“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, which is a measure we’re taking at sites around the world. Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite, further putting the teams at risk.”

Sources:

Amazon faces lawsuit alleging failure to provide PPE to workers during pandemic

Amazon fires warehouse worker who led Staten Island strike for more coronavirus protection

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