Amazon has been targetted in a new lawsuit over a lack of Covid-19 protections at its Staten Island JFK8 warehouse.
The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, by three Amazon workers at its JFK8 warehouse – a facility that has experienced staff walkouts and alleged firing of one of the walkout organisers.
The lawsuit alleges the e-commerce giant not only put workers at risk, but also their families. One staff member (Barbara Chandler) contracted Covid-19 and brought it home. The virus then allegedly was passed on to other members of her household – including her oldest son as well as her cousin (who died).
According to CNN, the lawsuit alleges Amazon has erected a “a façade of compliance” to meet public health guidelines while simultaneously pressuring employees to report to work under unsafe conditions.
The result is that while “most New Yorkers have remained safe by complying with the state’s stay-at-home order … for JFK8 workers and their families, home has been a place of danger,” the complaint said.
But Amazon has defended itself against the lawsuit.
“We are saddened by the tragic impact Covid-19 has had on communities across the globe, including on some Amazon team members and their family and friends,” Rachael Lighty, an Amazon spokesperson told CNN Business.
“From early March to May 1, we offered our employees unlimited time away from work, and since May 1 we have offered leave for those most vulnerable or who need to care for children or family members,” added Lighty.
CNN reported that Amazon declined requests for information on the total number of confirmed cases in its workforce, arguing the data would not be useful.
However as of this week, Amazon has confirmed the deaths of nine workers due to Covid-19 across its US facilities, including one who worked at JFK8.
The lawsuit seeks a court order to force Amazon to expand its leave policy, as well as to transfer its internal contact tracing efforts to a qualified third party.
In addition, it calls for Amazon to grant workers additional free time during shifts so that they may wash their hands.
Amazon however says that it has tripled the amount of cleaning it performs in facilities, and made masks and hand sanitizer more available.
It has also committed to making and distributing tens of thousands of plastic face shields to its employees, to health care workers and the general public.
It has said it’s made more than 150 “process changes” to its operations to enhance safety, and according to Amazon’s Lighty, the firm has “invested $4 billion from April to June on Covid-related initiatives, including over $800 million in the first half of this year on safety measures like temperature checks, masks, gloves, enhanced cleaning and sanitization, extended pay and benefits options, testing, and more. This includes two weeks paid leave for any Covid diagnosis or quarantine.”
In April Amazon revealed it was building its own coronavirus testing facility in order to monitor the health of its staff.
It emerged it is using thermal cameras to screen staff for high temperatures, but reportedly from a blacklisted Chinese firm.
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