Risk & Compliance

Amazon’s Labor and Whistleblower Laws Questioned

The New York Attorney General is investigating the e-commerce giant’s response to safety concerns raised by workers during the pandemic.
Lauren MuskettApril 28, 2020
Amazon’s Labor and Whistleblower Laws Questioned

New York Attorney General Letitia James sent a letter to Amazon last week saying that her office’s preliminary investigation found the company may have violated several federal and state laws.

The attorney general’s office has been investigating Amazon’s response to safety concerns raised by workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“While we continue to investigate, the information so far available to us raises concerns that Amazon’s health and safety measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are so inadequate that they may violate several provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and other federal and state guidelines,” James wrote in the letter accessed by NPR.

The attorney general added that the e-commerce giant may have also violated New York’s whistleblower laws by firing Christian Smalls, a warehouse worker who organized a protest at its Staten Island facility, NPR reported.

The preliminary findings of the attorney general’s office “raise serious concern that Amazon may have discharged [Smalls] to silence his complaints and send a threatening message to other employees that they should also keep quiet about any health and safety concerns,” the letter said, according to NPR.

James asked Amazon to reinstate Smalls and share all internal communication, starting from February 1, related to the matter with the attorney general’s office. She also called on the company to temporarily shut warehouses where workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and adequately sanitize and disinfect the facilities in line with the protesters’ demands.

Amazon has been facing increased scrutiny over its treatment of workers during the pandemic ever since Smalls was fired from his job for what the company said was violating its health guidelines.

While a majority of businesses across the world are facing challenges, Amazon has seen a surge in demand for its services due to the shelter in place orders imposed by authorities to curb the spread of the virus.

The company said it had added 100,000 workers in the United States since the pandemic took hold in the country and was looking to add another 75,000.

As it looks for more employees, existing workers across different sites have complained of lack of safety equipment and said they weren’t able to claim paid leaves under the company’s policies despite being sent home for having a fever or other coronavirus-related symptoms.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also received a letter from four Democratic senators earlier this month asking him to explain the firing of Smalls.

Amazon shares closed 1.4% lower at $2,376.00 on Monday and traded slightly higher in the after-hours session at $2,379.48.

This story originally appeared on Benzinga.

© 2020 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

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