NY Attorney General Files Court Order Asking for COVID-19 Worker Safety Monitor at Amazon Facility
The New York attorney general is going after Amazon.com, accusing the e-commerce giant of rolling back protocols for COVID-19 in at least one of its warehouses. New York Attorney General Letitia James sought an emergency court order on Tuesday, saying Amazon's decision on COVID-19 safety leaves employees at a higher risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
James said in her motion that she wanted a monitor appointed to oversee worker safety at an Amazon facility on Staten Island that employs more than 5,000 workers. She also asked for the interim reinstatement of Christian Smalls, who was fired after he complained about deficiencies in Amazon’s COVID-19 safety practices at the beginning of the pandemic.
“Amazon and its leadership banked billions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the crisis rages on, the health and concerns of the workers continue to be ignored,” James said in a press release.
In a statement to CNBC, Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel accused James of politicizing the pandemic by asking for this emergency order now, when James' original lawsuit against Amazon's safety standards was filed nine months ago.
"We’re working hard every day for our team, and the facts are that we moved fast from the onset of the pandemic, listened to and learned from the experts, and have taken a comprehensive approach to COVID-19 safety — incurring more than $15 billion in costs to support our employees and customers," Nantel told CNBC.
Total Retail's Take: Almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have begun rolling back worker safety as more people get vaccinated against the virus, and in retail, some companies have returned to in-office work on a hybrid schedule. In states that allow it, many companies have begun requiring the vaccine for people who don't work remotely.
Yet the news of the new COVID-19 variant omicron, which was first detected in South Africa two weeks ago, has led to a resurgence of caution, with travel banned once again to the U.S. from certain countries. Frontline retail workers who can't do their jobs from home are sure to face the brunt of any new variant — and new restrictions.