A state agency in New York has filed an administrative complaint against Amazon, alleging the e-commerce giant discriminated against pregnant and disabled workers by denying them “reasonable accommodations” and forcing them to take unpaid leave, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday.
Amazon has more than 39,000 workers across New York in nearly two dozen worksites, which employ in-house consultants who evaluate accommodation requests, according to a statement from the governor’s office. But the New York State Division of Human Rights, the agency that filed the complaint, alleges the retailer has a policy that allows onsite managers to override recommendations from the consultants, which has led to denials in the worker requests.
State law requires all employers to provide reasonable accommodation for pregnant and disabled workers. The governor’s office lists three separate employee requests from pregnant or disabled workers that it says were denied.
The complaint also alleges that under Amazon’s policy, employees with disabilities are forced to take unpaid medical leave even when the accommodation consultant “has identified a reasonable accommodation that would allow the employee to perform the essential functions of their position without an undue burden,” the governor’s office said in a statement. It said such practices violate state law.
“My administration will hold any employer accountable, regardless of how big or small, if they do not treat their workers with the dignity and respect they deserve,” Governor Hochul said in a statement.
Among other thing, the complaint seeks to require Amazon to cease what it calls its discriminatory conduct and pay fines and penalties.
In a statement to News 4 New York, Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. addressed New York's overall allegations.
"Ensuring all our employees, including those with disabilities and expectant mothers, feel safe and supported is extremely important to Amazon and we have numerous programs to ensure that’s the case, and while we don't always get it right with a workforce of over 1.6 million people, we work diligently to offer the best available options to accommodate individual situations," Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said.
"We’re surprised by the governor’s announcement this morning because we’ve been cooperating and working closely with her investigator on this matter and had no indication a complaint was coming. Since we haven’t received the complaint ourselves yet, we’re not in a position to comment further."