In a lawsuit, three Amazon workers allege the company “created a facade of compliance” with safety rules at its giant 850,000-square-foot warehouse on Staten Island, but that employees were at risk of catching the coronavirus, and that a “culture of workplace fear” left them fearful of retaliation if they complained.
Frank Kearl, a lawyer from Make the Road New York, is one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs.
“Workers are scared. Our plaintiffs are scared,” he said. “Other workers that we’ve spoken to are scared. We are living in unprecedented times. We’ve got a pandemic on our hands. And Amazon is continuing to operate business as usual.”
The three workers — and three people connected to them — are seeking a court order forcing Amazon to implement changes they say would better protect the nearly 4,000 employees inside.
The suit demands a leave policy that encourages workers to stay home when they feel sick without fear of losing their jobs. The suit also seks stepped-up “contact tracing” for infected workers, back pay for quarantine leave, and more time for workers to wash their hands.
“Our concern is that while they have done some of the easier things, there are a number of really basic policies that they have not put in place that continue to place workers at risk,” said Juno Turner, another one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
Amazon gave NY1 a tour of the warehouse last week, after protests by workers who claimed the company wasn’t doing enough to keep them safe.
We saw tents outside to give workers space to wait outside before entering the warehouse, and temperature scans to check them for illness. Masks, wipes and gloves were handed out all day, and six-foot markers and directional traffic arrows were in place to guide social distancing.
Turner tells NY1, “I am not confident that what you … saw your during your invited press tour last week is consistent with the experience that our clients have had working there day in and day out, for the duration of this pandemic. I think that there is a great desire by Amazon and other companies to present a façade of compliance to show everybody that they’re trying their best.”
Amazon confirms one death tied to the facility but has not said how many workers have tested positive for COVID-19. The lawsuit alleges at least 44 positive cases.