Amazon has allegedly been pressuring its workers to stay on the job even when they have coronavirus-like symptoms.
Six workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in New York City are suing the online retail giant, claiming its refusal to follow public health dictates unnecessarily exposes employees to novel coronavirus.
NBC News reports that the lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. The complaint accuses Amazon of engaging in “purposeful miscommunication with workers,” as well as “sloppy contact tracing.”
The lawsuit says that workers at Amazon’s State Island fulfillment center are afraid of management and unable to speak up. Employees are purportedly pushed to work even when they are sick and showing coronavirus-like symptoms.
Amazon, adds the lawsuit, has also not maintained proper hygienic standards inside its warehouses. Employees are made to work at “dizzying speeds, even if doing so prevents them from socially distancing, washing their hands, and sanitizing their work spaces.”
While Amazon has not publicly responded to the lawsuit, a corporate spokesperson told NBC News that the company has invested some $4 billion on “COVID-related initiatives.”
Another spokesperson, Rachael Lightly, emphasized Amazon’s coronavirus-response policies.
“We are saddened by the tragic impact COVID-19 has had on communities across the globe, including on some Amazon team members and their family and friends,” Lightly told CNN Business. “From early March to May 1, we offered our employees unlimited time away from work, and since May 1 we have offered leave for those most vulnerable or who need to care for children or family members.”
But Amazon—perhaps more than any other large business in the United States—has nonetheless profited immensely from coronavirus. Shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders issued across the country dissuaded or prevented many Americans from visiting traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, pushing more and more commerce online.
Interestingly, the New York City lawsuit does not demand financial recompense—the plaintiffs just want Amazon to take public health guidance seriously.
“All they want is an order requiring Amazon to comply with public health guidance to prevent more harm in the future,” the complaint says.
CNN notes that at least nine Amazon employees in New York City have died from novel coronavirus, including one who worked at the State Island facility, which is also known as JFK8. Worker protests at JFK8 allegedly led to several employees being fired in retaliation.
Derrick Palmer, who’s listed as a plaintiff on the Staten Island lawsuit, said workers just want to do their jobs in peace and safety.
“As someone whose partner felt it was unsafe to visit her elderly family member because of the dangerous conditions at my job, I know too well the costs of Amazon’s failure to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the facility,” Palmer said in a statement. “We want to protect our own health, but also peace of mind for our family members, and safety for the many communities in which JFK8 workers live.”