A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit in New York involving an Amazon warehouse employee who was claiming that the company was putting employee lives on the line with their mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The suit initially began after a slew of Amazon warehouse employees contracted the coronavirus due to a lack of proper health and safety procedures.
The lawsuit was initially filed in June after workers accused Amazon of creating a “public nuisance by exacerbating Covid-19 risks.” These “exacerbations” took the form of a company culture that created “workplace fear” for the employees. According to the filing, workers were told to “work at dizzying speeds, even if doing so prevents them from socially distancing, washing their hands, and sanitizing their work spaces.”
This Sunday, US District judge Brian Cogan made a ruling in Brooklyn, NY, in which he decided that the warehouse employees should have brought the issues up with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) instead. Cogan claimed that the federal agency would better be able to “strike a balance between maintaining some level of operations in conjunction with some level of protective measures.”
Given the federal courts lack of expertise on workplace health and safety issues during a global health crisis, Cogan feared bringing the lawsuit to the courts would only create a bunch of conflicting rulings from various judges who also lack experience in this type of legal issue.
“Court-imposed workplace policies could subject the industry to vastly different, costly regulatory schemes in a time of economic crisis.”
The Amazon workers’ lawyers said that they were weighing an appeal of Cogan’s ruling, claiming that the judge’s redirection of the case to be further dealt with by the OSHA “should be very concerning to anyone who cares about the health of American workers, given that OSHA has been virtually AWOL throughout this crisis,” they said in a statement after the ruling was made.
Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski recently released a statement after the ruling as well, denying any wrongdoing from the company, and calling the lawsuit an “effort to exploit the pandemic.”
“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our employees, which is why at the onset of the pandemic we moved quickly to make more than 150 COVID-19 related process changes.”
In general, worker advocate groups all throughout the nation have filed public nuisance suits due to the lack of effort from the OSHA, meaning they’ve looked into the options with the agency but as they claimed, the organization has been relatively absent throughout the past nine months.
Towards Justice and Public Justice are two legal non-profits that helped bring the Amazon suit to the courts initially. Additionally, the two companies are separately suing OSHA in a federal court in Pennsylvania due to their lack of efforts to address the “imminent dangers” workers everywhere continue to face.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.