New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed a lawsuit against Amazon over its coronavirus safety protocols and the firing of one of its outspoken workers.
James had threatened to sue if Amazon didn't agree to her list of demands, including rehiring the worker, Christian Smalls, and paying him and another fired worker large sums of money. In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, the attorney general alleged that Amazon has "repeatedly and persistently failed" to protect its workers at its New York City facilities where the pandemic hit hard.
Amazon also allegedly didn't properly clean and disinfect facilities after workers were infected with the coronavirus and failed to adequately implement contact tracing, the suit said.
The lawsuit also comes just days after the Seattle-based company attempted to stop the attorney general's probe in court. Amazon alleged in a lawsuit filed Friday in Brooklyn that James overstepped her authority by trying to regulate coronavirus safety protocols at its warehouse on Staten Island.
In a statement, James called Amazon's lawsuit “a sad attempt to distract from the facts and shirk accountability for its failures to protect hardworking employees from a deadly virus."
Amazon defended its COVID-19 safety protocols in the lawsuit, saying it hired experts, added hand-sanitizer stations and signs alerting workers to stay at least 6-feet apart from each other. It also said that unannounced inspections in March and April by the New York City sheriff's office found the warehouse went above and beyond safety requirements.
Amazon fired Smalls in March after he led a walkout at the Staten Island warehouse to push the company to better protect its workers from the virus. Smalls said he was fired in retaliation and to stop other workers from speaking out. Amazon said it terminated Smalls because he violated social-distancing guidelines.
The company argued in court documents that only the federal government can mandate COVID-19 safety protocols and that the attorney general's office doesn't have the legal authority “it purports to wield against Amazon."