Amazon filed a lawsuit against New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, on Friday in an effort to prevent it from filing charges against the company over safety concerns at two of its warehouses in New York City.
The company has also asked the court to compel Mrs. James to declare that she has no power to regulate workplace safety during the Covid-19 pandemic or to investigate allegations of retaliation against employees protesting their working conditions.
In the case filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Amazon said Ms. James’ office was investigating epidemic safety concerns raised by employees at the large fulfillment center on Staten Island and at the delivery warehouse in Queens. She said Mrs. James “threatened to sue” Amazon if it did not agree to its demands, including subsidizing bus service, reducing worker productivity requirements, undermining profits and returning Christian SmallsAmazon worker, fired in the spring.
Mr Smalls said he was avenged for leading a protest at a Staten Island warehouse. Amazon said he was fired for going to the workplace to participate in the protest even though he was on paid leave in quarantine after he was exposed to a colleague who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Mr Smalls became the most visible case of clashes between workers and Amazon, which faced an increase in demands from consumers idler. Like an epidemic Spread throughout the country, and many amazon Company workers said Missing early opportunities To provide better protection against COVID-19.
Amazon vehemently defended its safety measures and went on the offensive against its critics. In notes from an internal meeting of chief executives, chief Amazon attorney Mr. Smalls called inarticulate He discussed strategies to make it the face of workers’ organization.
In its 64-page complaint, Amazon said its safety measures “far exceeded what is required by law,” and argued that federal law, not state law enforced by the New York attorney general, had primary oversight of workplace safety concerns.
“OAG lacks the legal authority it claims to exercise against Amazon,” the company said.
Amazon declined to comment after the deposit.
Mrs. James said in a statement that the lawsuit “is nothing more than a sad attempt to divert attention from the facts and evade accountability for her failures to protect hardworking staff from a deadly virus.”
She said her office was reviewing his legal options. “Let me be clear: no one will scare us, especially corporate bullies who put profits on the health and safety of workers,” she said.
James Brodney, a professor of labor law at Fordham University, said it was uncommon for companies to file a preemptive “scorched earth” lawsuit filed by Amazon.
“They want to fight,” he said of Amazon. “They always want to fight.”
Mr Brodney said federal law preempts workplace safety in the state in many cases, although there are exceptions that Ms James could dispute.
“It seems reasonable to see if the state is able to prove its case,” he said. He added that the federal control “failed terribly and tragically” in creating and enforcing the safety of the epidemiological workplace, so countries were intervening to address the gaps.
Much of Amazon’s complaint makes clear its response to the pandemic, including conducting temperature checks at entrances, providing masks and providing free on-site testing. And she said that, by her calculations, 1.15 percent of her frontline employees in New York have tested positive for the virus or are presumed to be positive for the Coronavirus, about half the rate for the general population in the state.
The complaint also quoted an email documenting the surprise inspection of the New York City Mayor’s office of a Staten Island warehouse on March 30, which stated that Amazon “appears to be exceeding current compliance requirements.”
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