New York, Amazon Settle Pandemic Protection Lawsuit

The legal showdown between New York’s attorney general Letitia James and e-commerce giant Amazon has been settled.

Reuters reported that both sides agreed to halt litigation against one another, and centred over Amazon’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In February 2021 Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, filed a lawsuit against Amazon, alleging the firm carried out ‘disregard for health and safety requirements’ and retaliation against employees who raised alarms during the initial Covid-19 outbreak.

Image credit: Amazon

Covid lawsuit

The New York lawsuit claimed that Amazon failed to provide workers with a safe environment at two warehouses in the state as Covid-19 infections surged nationwide.

Amazon fired back with its own lawsuit against New York state, which had alleged James overstepped her bounds in pandemic dealings with the retailer.

As part of the settlement agreement Amazon withdrew its litigation.

In a filing, Attorney General Letitia James agreed not to seek review of a May state court decision that had found federal law preempted her claims that Amazon violated state labour statutes.

The attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request by Reuters for comment.

“We took extraordinary measures to keep our employees as safe as possible,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told Reuters. “The court’s prior dismissal of the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit, and today’s agreement to end the litigation altogether, is the right outcome given our actions in response to the pandemic.”

Reuters reported that Amazon faces other legal battles arising from its Covid-19 response.

On Tuesday, a US appeals court ruled that Amazon had to face a claim in a separate court case that it had failed to protect warehouse workers and their families in New York City during the pandemic.

Pandemic response

There is no doubt that the pandemic resulted in a boom for Amazon’s business, with many households around the world forced into a number of lockdowns – starting Q1 2020 and lasting into late 2021.

But that boom for Amazon came at a price, despite its protection measures at its warehouses.

For example, Amazon built its own Coronavirus testing labs to monitor the health of its staff back in April 2020, when the pandemic was raging around the world.

Despite that in October 2020 Amazon revealed that nearly 20,000 staff had been infected by Covid-19.

Other protection measures included Amazon taking the temperature of staff upon their arrival at work and spraying disinfectant on work stations.

Yet criticism persisted, particularly about cleanliness in warehouses, and working conditions.

It should be noted that Amazon already successfully fended off allegations over the alleged lack of Covid-19 protections.

In early November 2020 a staff lawsuit against Amazon over its alleged lack of Coronavirus protection for warehouse workers at the Staten Island facility was dismissed by a US District Judge in New York.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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