Christian Smalls lawsuit against e-commerce giant Amazon is unlikely to succeed in the US Appeals Court, according to reports
Amazon looks set to be the victor in the race lawsuit brought against it, by union founder and former warehouse worker Christian Smalls.
Amazon maintained that Smalls was fired for repeatedly violating social distancing guidelines, but that did not stop New York’s attorney general Letitia James suing Amazon. Last month that lawsuit was settled.
Smalls and other workers went on to form the Amazon Labor Union’s (ALU), which successfully organised workers at the JFK8 facility to vote for a trade union in April 2022 – the first US union vote in Amazon’s 27-year history.
Amazon is appealing that decision.
Meanwhile Smalls has separately sued Amazon, and alleged in his complaint that he was targeted because of his race and his advocacy for the warehouse’s largely non-white workforce.
However Reuters reported that a three-judge 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Manhattan suggested during a hearing in Smalls’ bid to revive a 2020 lawsuit that his firing had more to do with his complaints about safety conditions amid the Covid-19 pandemic than the fact that he is Black.
According to Reuters, the 2nd Circuit judges on Tuesday said Smalls failed to back up those claims, echoing a New York federal judge who dismissed the case last year.
“He offers good reason to think they fired him because he was trying to organise,” but not because of racial tensions, Circuit Judge Guido Calabresi said.
Smalls became a high-profile figure after his firing, crossing the country to rally workers, leading a boycott of Amazon and testifying before the US Senate in a jacket that read “Eat the Rich” across the back.
Michael Sussmann, a lawyer for Smalls, on Tuesday reportedly told the 2nd Circuit that Amazon knew race had played a role in Smalls’ complaints because workers at the warehouse are overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic while managers are mostly white.
“That can only be understood in America in 2020 as being at least in part about race,” Sussmann reportedly said.
But the broad allegations about Amazon’s failure to protect workers during the pandemic also implicated white employees, Jason Schwartz, a lawyer for Amazon, was quoted by Reuters as telling the panel.
Smalls may have believed that Amazon’s practices were racially motivated, Schwartz said, but “Amazon is not required to read his mind.”