New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking an emergency court order compelling Amazon to enforce tougher Covid-19 standards, claiming that the company’s choice to pull back safety safeguards at least one of its warehouses puts employees at danger of coronavirus infection.
James filed the petition for relief on 30th November 2021, as part of a lawsuit she filed earlier this year, alleging that Amazon prioritized profit over worker safety at its New York facilities and discriminated against workers who raised safety concerns during the epidemic.
The Petition Filed by James
James asked the court to appoint a monitor to oversee worker safety at Amazon’s New York operations as part of the move. James is also seeking a court order for Amazon to rehire Chris Smalls, an Amazon employee who was sacked in March after speaking out about working conditions.
“The State now seeks preliminary injunctive relief because Amazon is rolling back its already inadequate public health measures and acting as if the pandemic is over when the risk of virus transmission is increasing, and a new variant threatens to cause even higher rates of transmission, illness, and death,” the motion states. “While case rates, hospitalizations, and deaths rise, Amazon rescinds protections and packs in more workers for its holiday rush,” according to the filing.
When asked if it had pulled back coronavirus safety standards in its warehouses, Amazon did not comment. Amazon said earlier this month that it will no longer require fully vaccinated U.S. warehouse employees to wear masks at work unless state or local law requires it.
Amazon’s request to have James’ lawsuit dismissed was denied by a federal judge in October.
“It’s disheartening that the Attorney General is attempting to politicize the epidemic by asking for ’emergency’ relief now, despite having brought this action nine months ago,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said. “We’re working hard for our team every day, and the facts are that we responded quickly from the start of the epidemic, listened to and learned from experts, and took a comprehensive strategy to COVID-19 safety — spending more than $15 billion to help our staff and customers.”
As the coronavirus epidemic has progressed, the company and other big firms employing front-line workers have adjusted their safety policies regularly. As instances decreased and vaccinations became available throughout the summer, several firms loosened safety precautions like obligatory mask-wearing, only to reinstall such rules as the more dangerous delta strain spread.
Public health experts have issued warnings in recent weeks about the novel Covid variant omicron, a significantly mutated strain of the coronavirus discovered two weeks ago in South Africa. The revelation of the variation shook global markets and prompted several nations to impose fresh travel restrictions.
Did Amazon Rip Down COVID-19 Safety Precautions?
According to the petition, The Company began ripping down coronavirus safety precautions over the summer.
According to the complaint, The Company told employees on July 7 that it was returning to several pre-pandemic practices. As a result, numerous coronavirus safety precautions that were implemented at the start of the pandemic, such as temperature testing, social distance enforcement, and staggered shift and break times, have been abandoned.
Other anti-crowding initiatives, such as restricting break room capacity and canceling “stand-up” meetings at the start of shifts, have subsequently been abandoned, according to the filing.
James’ agency cited affidavits from Derrick Palmer and Tristian Martinez, two warehouse employees on Staten Island, indicating lowered Covid safety procedures and a censored photo showing a stand-up gathering at the Staten Island plant, known as JFK8, as evidence.
“Amazon does not have a mandate that all workers must be vaccinated,” according to Palmer’s affidavit. “I come in contact with hundreds of other workers at JFK8 each day, and I do not know who is vaccinated and who is not.”
According to Palmer’s affidavit, Amazon told personnel on July 30 that the onsite Covid-19 testing program was ending.
Warehouse workers, legislators, and state attorneys general have all condemned Amazon’s reaction to the coronavirus outbreak. They claim Amazon took too long to provide personal protective equipment, temperature checks, and other safety measures for its employees. Amazon and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, have rebuffed these allegations, claiming that the corporation has gone to “extraordinary efforts” to safeguard employees against the coronavirus.