“Amazon workers sue over lax workplace policies in coronavirus crisis”
June 4, 2020 | 12:08pm
The federal lawsuit aims to hold Amazon legally accountable for what workers say are insufficient efforts to protect them from the coronavirus, which has reportedly killed at least eight Amazon staffers and infected hundreds more.
One of the plaintiffs, Barbara Chandler, contracted the virus in March at the JFK8 fulfillment center and brought it home to her family, the Wednesday complaint says. It eventually infected her cousin — whom Chandler found dead in the bathroom less than a month later — and her son, who’s also a plaintiff, according to the lawsuit.
The complaint accuses Amazon of prioritizing productivity over safety at its JFK8 fulfillment center by failing to keep workstations clean, discouraging workers from washing their hands, and tacitly encouraging them to work while sick.
Amazon has not disclosed how many warehouse workers have caught the coronavirus. But the complaint says the Staten Island facility has seen at least 44 confirmed cases and at least one death.
Amazon also took weeks to pay Chandler only part of the “quarantine leave” that she was entitled to under New York law as a worker who contracted COVID-19, the suit says.
“As New Yorkers consider a gradual return to normalcy, JFK8 workers and their families live with the very real threat of infection every day,” says the complaint, which seeks an order forcing Amazon to better protect workers from the virus.
The other plaintiffs include two Amazon workers and their family members who worry they could catch the virus as a result of the warehouse’s working conditions, court papers say.
Warehouse associate Derrick Palmer is suing along with his live-in girlfriend, Kendia Mesidor, who could only see her father once in the months leading up to his May death because she worried she could be carrying the coronavirus, the lawsuit says.
“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,” Palmer said in a statement.
In response to the suit, Amazon said it has followed guidance from state and local health authorities during the coronavirus pandemic and that it always complies with public health laws.
The Seattle-based company has put $4 billion towards safety measures and other coronavirus-related initiatives from April to June, spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said. It also offered unlimited time away from work from early March to May 1 and leave for vulnerable staff since then, she said.
“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,” Lighty said in a statement.
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