·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Lawsuits & Litigation

Amazon Sues New York in Bid to Pre-Empt Coronavirus Lawsuit

— February 14, 2021

Amazon claims that New York doesn’t have the authority to impose its own laws upon the corporation.

Amazon has filed a lawsuit against New York in a last-minute bid to stop the state from suing the digital retailer over its handling of worker safety amidst the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court in Brooklyn, recalls how New York Attorney General Letitia James has repeatedly threatened to sue Amazon over its safety protocol.

According to Amazon, James provided the company with a list of demands to meet in order to avoid litigation. James had, among other things, requested that Amazon slow its production speeds and alter its performance requirements.

James also asked that Amazon pay “large sums” of money to Christian Smalls, an Amazon warehouse employee who has terminated after he began protesting the company’s COIVD response.

Smalls, notes The Wall Street Journal, organized a mass walk-out at one of Amazon’s State Island facilities.

Several weeks after Smalls’ defiance, Amazon terminated him. Although the company claims they fired Smalls for unrelated reasons—including a purported failure to adhere to social distancing protocol—Smalls and his allies say he was very obviously retaliated against.

New York Attorney General and former city council member Letitia James. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:Matthew Cohen. (CCA-BY-2.0).

However, Amazon now alleges that James lacks any legal authority to regulate it. In its lawsuit, Amazon attorneys claimed that the company’s operations are “governed by federal law and enforced by federal regulators.”

Consequently, Amazon says the New York Attorney General’s Office “lacks the legal authority it purports to wield.”

“Amazon cannot accept the OAG’s attempt to subject Amazon to an inconsistent and unfair standard for workplace safety that is pre-empted by federal law and assigned to the primary jurisdiction of federal regulators – especially when the underlying facts show that Amazon has done an exemplary job responding to an unprecedented global pandemic,” Amazon wrote in its suit.

Amazon has now asked a judge to find that James lacks the authority to regulate workplace safety—and to ensure that her office cannot file a lawsuit over the same issue.

But James said neither she nor her department will be intimidated by what appears to be a clear-cut case of corporate intimidation.

Speaking on Friday, James called Amazon’s pre-emptive lawsuit “a sad attempt to distract from the facts and shirk accountability for its failures to protect hardworking employees from a deadly virus.

“We will not be intimidated by anyone, especially corporate bullies that put profits over the health and safety of working people,” James said in a statement. “We remain undeterred in our efforts to protect workers from exploitation and will continue to review all of our legal options.”

Smalls, adds Reuters, has pledged to keep protesting on behalf of his former colleagues; in November, he filed a class action demanding damages for minority workers.


Amazon Aims to Head Off Suit by New York Over Worker Issues

Amazon sues New York attorney general to preempt COVID-19 lawsuit

Amazon sues NY amid threat of virus labour lawsuit

Join the conversation!