Ex-Amazon Employee Files Class-Action Suit against the E-Commerce Giant
A former Amazon.com, Inc worker has filed a class-action suit against the e-commerce company. The ex-employee — Christian Smalls — accused the tech giant of discrimination and violating federal civil rights laws by terminating his employment. The complaint also alleges apathy towards Hispanic and Black worker safety in relation to protective measures taken in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a class-action suit filed in Brooklyn federal court, Smalls seeks compensation for himself and an increase in protective measures for workers handling packages at the facilities during the pandemic.
He alleged that the tech giant subjected its predominantly minority workforce to “egregious working conditions during the current pandemic” compared to those for its “white managers.” The suit also alleges Amazon failed to provide PPE and implement other safety guidelines necessary to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
In October, Amazon confirmed that nearly 20,000 company workers were either presumed positive or had tested positive for coronavirus. The statistics highlight the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the company’s workforce during an increase in demand for online orders and deliveries.
Smalls was fired on March 30. The company claims that his termination was based on a violation of his paid quarantine terms since, despite being in contact with a COVID-19 diagnosed individual, he participated in a protest at their Staten Island facility.
Lisa Levandowski — Amazon’s spokeswoman — issued a statement, “We terminated Mr. Smalls for putting the health and safety of others at risk and violations of the terms of his employment. Mr. Smalls received multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines. He was also found to have had close contact with a COVID-19 diagnosed associate and was asked to remain home with pay for 14-days. Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite, further putting the teams at risk.”
Smalls was promoted to a supervisory position a year after obtaining a job at Amazon in 2015. He was fundamental in organizing a protest outside the JFK8 fulfillment center on Staten Island. The protest was reportedly an effort to highlight the unsafe conditions Amazon’s workers were subjected to throughout the pandemic.
Smalls alleged that the company failed to issue any protocols to quarantine COVID-19 positive and that they continued working in close contact. He also allegedly raised the concern to the human resources department and higher-level managers, requesting permission for quarantine orders to be mandated.
When the company allegedly failed to take action in response to Smalls’ concerns, he organized a demonstration in the parking lot of the facility.
Smalls further took up the case with Amazon’s management after confirming that the establishment wasn’t undertaking any temperature checks of workers, and continually failing to provide necessary protective equipment, such as hand sanitizer, PPE, etc.
Smalls is represented by C.K. Hoffler — National Bar Association President — and Michael Sussman — the acclaimed civil rights lawyer. Both Hoffler and Sussman contend that Amazon’s actions violate New York City Human Rights laws and federal statutes.
Hoffler further remarked, “As New York City was fast becoming the epicenter of this deadly and brutal disease, Amazon knowingly subjected its majority-minority line workers to unsafe, dangerous, and inferior work conditions as compared to its white employees working in managerial classifications.” “When Chris Smalls organized workers against Amazon’s discriminatory practices by voicing his opposition in an effort to protect the workers, he was fired.”
Smalls is reportedly one of many employees who complained about Amazon’s unsafe working conditions. Employees nationwide have protested and petitioned against the company’s lack of action in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sussman stated that the case is not focused on any specific violation of workplace law, but rather multiple acts of racial discrimination on the part of Amazon. The suit alleges Amazon focused more on the safety of their white managers than the minority line workers while ignoring the constant pleas of Smalls.
Hoffler also noted, “Amazon concluded that as a Black man, he would serve as a ‘weak spokesman’ for the workers, and criticized him for standing up and fighting for the workers.”
He continued, “Over 240,000 people have died in the United States from COVID-19, and millions have been infected, but Amazon was cavalier with the safety of its employees amidst this pandemic,” he concluded by saying, “Amazon puts profits before people and placed its workers at risk.”
Smalls stated, “I was a loyal worker and gave my all to Amazon until I was unceremoniously terminated and tossed aside like yesterday’ trash because I insisted that Amazon protect its dedicated workers from COVID-19,” “I just wanted Amazon to provide basic protective gear to the workers and sanitize the workplace.”
Levandowski, in a statement, said that the company’s focus on customer service “is central to our work in diversity and inclusion,” and the termination of Smalls was “because he put the health and safety of other employees at risk.”