US Appeals Court Likely To Dismiss Race Lawsuit Against Amazon

Amazon looks set to be the victor in the race lawsuit brought against it, by union founder and former warehouse worker Christian Smalls.

Smalls is the former Amazon worker who was fired in March 2020 after leading a protest at the JFK8 facility in Staten Island, over working conditions there during the pandemic.

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.

Image credit: Amazon

Amazon lawsuit

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.

Appeals court

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.”

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...

Recent Posts

Google Must Face Trial In Ad Tech Monopoly Case

Google loses bid for summary judgement as judge says 'too many facts in dispute' as…

3 hours ago

Silicon In Focus Podcast: Feeding the Machine

Learn how your business can meet the challenges associated with managing data across multiple platforms…

4 hours ago

Apple, Meta Likely To Face EU Antitrust Charges

Apple, Facebook parent Meta reportedly likely to face EU antitrust charges before August under new…

4 hours ago

Adobe Shares Jump On AI Success

Adobe shares post biggest gains in more than four years after it reports user take-up…

4 hours ago

Winklevoss’ Gemini To Pay $50m In Crypto Fraud Settlement

Winklevoss twins' Gemini Trust to pay $50m to settle cypto fraud claims over failed Gemini…

5 hours ago

Meta Delays EU AI Launch After Privacy Complaints

Meta delays Europe launch of AI in Europe after user, privacy group complaints over plans…

5 hours ago