New York Attorney General Letitia James filed the lawsuit on Tuesday over Amazon’s alleged neglect of COVID-19 guidelines and safety laws to protect workers.
“Amazon has repeatedly and persistently failed to comply with its obligations,” James said, “to protect its workers from the spread of the virus in its New York City facilities.”
The lawsuit targets Amazon warehouses in Staten Island and Queens. which employ around 5,000 workers. The company has other warehouses in the five boroughs and across Nassau and Suffolk counties. Several additional warehouses are being planned for Carle Place, Sysosset and Holbrook on Long Island
Amazon had tried to block James’ lawsuit and filed a preemptive suit against her last Friday in Brooklyn federal court, claiming that she had gone beyond her authority.
The initial investigation into Amazon began after the company fired a New York employee last March, and offered a final notice to another in April. These two employees had issued complaints over poor working conditions amid the pandemic.
In late March, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey had sent a letter calling on Amazon and Whole Foods to expand health benefits and COVID-19 guidelines for their workers. The letter was signed by 14 other state attorneys general, including Connecticut Attorney General William Tong.
Labor unions that represent Connecticut workers say they hope Tong will join in New York’s lawsuit. However, the legal challenge has not yet gained multistate status.
Amazon is one of the largest employers in Connecticut, with an estimated 8,500 workers. In October, the company estimated that the state saw 20 positive COVID-19 cases for every 1,000 workers, a 2% positivity rate. That was higher than the state’s overall rate.