Former Amazon employee sues company claiming black and Hispanic workers did not receive PPE

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Former Amazon employee Christian Smalls filed a discrimination class action lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York City, alleging the company failed to provide personal protective equipment for its workforce. majority minority ”and subjected a group of African-American and Hispanic workers to inferior work. conditions compared to its predominantly white managers.

Smalls started working at Amazon’s JFK8 State Island facility in 2015 and was promoted to a middle management position the following year, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint says Smalls brought in a group of non-white workers to meet with management about working conditions after one of his co-workers tested positive for coronavirus, but management allegedly “pushed back the workers … and didn’t did not express concern for the group. health / well-being. He noted that after arranging to meet again with a group that included white workers, management “seemed much more receptive to the group’s health and safety concerns.”

Additionally, Smalls claimed management was ignoring New York and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting the facility.

As a result, Smalls staged a strike on March 30 in which around 60 people called on Amazon to shut down the building until it could be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. He was then fired after Amazon said it violated the terms of a coronavirus quarantine that was put in place days before the protest.

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Quoting a leaked memo from Amazon attorney general to chief executive Jeff Bezos, Smalls said Amazon fired him after concluding that as a black man he was a “weak spokesperson. Workers, that he was “neither intelligent nor articulate” and also “an easy target to defeat. ”

He also claimed that Amazon believed it could gain public support by “making him the face of the movement” criticizing the company’s response to the pandemic.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for black and Hispanic workers at the Staten Island plant.

Former Amazon employee Christian Smalls poses for a portrait during a protest outside an Amazon warehouse as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in the Staten Island borough in New York, USA, May 1, 2020. REUTERS / Lucas J

Without commenting directly on the lawsuit, Amazon spokeswoman Lisa Levandowski told FOX Business on Thursday in a statement that the company’s focus on customers was “at the heart of our diversity work and inclusion ”.

“Diverse teams help us think bigger and differently about the products and services we develop for our customers and the day-to-day nature of our workplace,” said Levandowski.

She added that Smalls was fired for endangering the health and safety of others and violating his terms of employment.

“Mr. Smalls has received several warnings for violating social distancing guidelines, ”she said. “He was also discovered to have had close contact with an associate diagnosed with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and asked to stay home with pay for 14 days. teams at risk. ”

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Smalls is not alone in pushing back on Amazon over its working conditions, with Amazon employees staging protests across the country over working conditions. Additionally, New York Attorney General Letitita James has launched an investigation into Amazon, an investigation Smalls cooperated with.

In October, Amazon revealed that 19,816 of its frontline workers in the United States, or 1.44% of its total workforce, had tested positive or were presumed positive for coronavirus between March 1 and March 19. September.

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The company said in a blog post that it plans to invest around $ 10 billion in 2020 in COVID-related initiatives to keep employees safe and deliver products to customers.

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