Amazon sued over COVID-19 shortfalls

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Days after Amazon filed a lawsuit to block Letitia James’ case, the New York Attorney has sued the retailer on Tuesday over its handling of worker safety issues around the COVID-19 pandemic at two warehouses.

In a complaint filed in a New York state court in Manhattan, James said Amazon’s drive for faster growth and higher profits led to its “flagrant disregard” of steps needed to protect workers from the coronavirus at a Staten Island fulfillment center and a Queens distribution center, both in New York City.

James also accused Amazon of illegally retaliating when employees began to complain, including last March when it fired activist Christian Smalls purportedly for violating a paid quarantine when he led a protest over conditions at the Staten Island warehouse.

James sued four days after Amazon filed its own lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court to stop her from suing.

Amazon said in its lawsuit that federal labor and safety laws took precedence over New York’s in addressing workplace safety, and that James was overstepping her authority.

Amazon also faced scrutiny last March when workers protested conditions at the Staten Island warehouse. New York City announced its own probe at the time.

The attorney general’s lawsuit seeks to require Amazon to upgrade its protections for workers, reinstate Smalls, and pay damages to him and another worker who allegedly faced retaliation.

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