A Federal Judge ruled against Amazon Inc in its defense of a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James alleging that the company prioritized profit over worker safety during the Coronavirus pandemic at two New York City warehouses. U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan granted James’ request to return her lawsuit to a New York State Court and rejected Amazon’s bid to move it to federal court in Brooklyn, where the online retailer had sued James to prevent her from suing.
James accused Amazon of failing to take reasonable precautions to protect workers from the coronavirus at a Staten Island fulfilment centre and a Queens distribution centre, and of retaliating against employees who complained. Although the decision did not resolve the merits of the case, it is a loss for Seattle-based Amazon, which accused James of overstepping her authority and claimed that federal laws could regulate workplace safety rather than New York. According to James, Amazon “cut corners” in terms of worker security because doing so would jeopardize efficiency, market value, and profitability.
The case sought better labour protections as well as monetary damages for two Amazon employees who were reportedly subjected to retaliation. One of them, Christian Smalls, was shot a year ago for allegedly breaching a paid quarantine while leading a demonstration against the Staten Island warehouse’s conditions.
James had sued Amazon on Feb. 16, 4 days after Amazon sued her. Amazon only then moved James’ lawsuit to federal court.