Amazon has reached a settlement with two former employees who said they were fired for their workplace activism.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had claimed Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa were illegally fired for publicly speaking out about the company’s climate record and labour policies.
It is fair to say that Amazon is facing a number of legal challenges at the moment. In May the Attorney General of the District of Columbia (Washington DC) Karl Racine sued Amazon on antitrust grounds, claiming the company’s practices have “raised prices for consumers and stifled innovation and choice across the entire online retail market.”
And in February this year Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, filed a lawsuit against Amazon, alleging it failed to protect workers during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Besides these two high profile lawsuits, Amazon is also dealing with a number of other legal actions over whether it unlawfully fired or disciplined employees who had reported safety concerns or unsafe working conditions.
The lawsuit filed by Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa concerned Amazon’s climate record and its labour policies.
Now a settlement has been announced by NLRB Administrative Law Judge John Giannopoulos at a virtual hearing, CNBC reported.
It comes after the NLRB found in April that Amazon illegally fired them after they advocated for better working conditions during the pandemic.
Amazon however said it had fired Costa and Cunningham for “repeatedly violating internal policies,” and it challenged the NLRB findings.
What is known is that Cunningham and Costa reportedly worked at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters for 15 years as user experience designers.
However in 2018 they criticised Amazon’s climate stance and founded a staff advocacy group that urged the company to reduce its impact on climate change.
The group, called ‘Amazon Employees for Climate Justice’, gained the support of more than 8,700 employees. More than 1,500 employees reportedly walked out in protest of Amazon’s climate policies.
When the Coronavirus pandemic hit, Cunningham and Costa raised concerns about Amazon’s treatment of warehouse workers.
According to CNBC, both of them shared a petition from warehouse workers advocating for more coronavirus protections, and their employee advocacy group reportedly planned an internal event allowing Amazon tech workers and warehouse employees to discuss workplace conditions.
NLRB Administrative Law Judge John Giannopoulos had been expected to review the NLRB’s complaint.
However this week NLRB spokesperson Kayla Blado confirmed a private settlement was reached between the parties.
The settlement amount was not disclosed, but Amazon is required to pay the two fired employees their back wages.
“We are thrilled to announce that we have reached an agreement to settle the charge against Amazon at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that the company illegally fired us for speaking up about warehouse workers’ conditions during Covid,” said the two fired staffers in a statement.
“This is a win for protecting workers rights, and shows that we were right to stand up for each other, for justice, and for our world,” they said. “Amazon will be required to pay us our lost wages and post a notice to all of its tech and warehouse workers nationwide that Amazon can’t fire workers for organising and exercising their rights.”
“It’s also not lost on us that we are two women who were targeted for firing,” the statement added. “Inequality, racism, and sexism are at the heart of both the climate crisis and the pandemic.”
Amazon said it welcomed the resolution of this case, which avoids the need for a potentially lengthy trial.
“We have reached a mutual agreement that resolves the legal issues in this case and welcome the resolution of this matter,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC.
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