UPDATED (5/18/2022 @ 12:50 p.m. PT): Amazon has reached out to Shacknews to share a statement on the complaint filed by New York, claiming to have been in contact with and cooperating with an investigator on behalf of Gov. Hochul, and also having been somewhat blindsided by the filing of the complaint.
"Ensuring all our employees, including those with disabilities and expectant mothers, feel safe and supported is extremely important to Amazon," said Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel. "We have numerous programs to ensure that’s the case, and while we don't always get it right with a workforce of over 1.6 million people, we work diligently to offer the best available options to accommodate individual situations. We’re surprised by the governor’s announcement this morning because we’ve been cooperating and working closely with her investigator on this matter and had no indication a complaint was coming. Since we haven’t received the complaint ourselves yet, we’re not in a position to comment further."
Original Story: Amazon is facing a major complaint from the state of New York over alleged discriminatory practices and behavior towards pregnant and disabled employees. The complaint alleges that Amazon is violating New York Human Rights Law by forcing such employees to take unpaid leaves of absence as opposed to providing reasonable accommodations. Furthermore, it alleges that Amazon managers have overridden recommendations by consultants to unfairly deny accommodations to affected employees.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced the filing of the complaint against Amazon by the state’s Division of Human Rights on May 18, 2022.
“My administration will hold any employer accountable, regardless of how big or small, if they do not treat their workers with the dignity and respect they deserve,” Governor Hochul said. “New York has the strongest worker protections in the nation and was one of the first to have protections for workers who are pregnant and those with disabilities. Working men and women are the backbone of New York and we will continue to take a stand against any injustice they face.”
Amazon has been in the news frequently as of late over clashes with employees, especially in regards to union organization. The company faced backlash from livestreamers last year for anti-union ads being run on Twitch. Despite its efforts, a vote by the Teamsters Union was passed which established a division to help Amazon employees organize. Even so, Amazon has been vehemently opposed to union organization throughout its company.
These latest allegations from the state of New York will likely add further fuel to the fire under Amazon in regards to workers rights. Many of the allegations against the company are detailed and damning in a number of circumstances. In one case, a pregnant worker was denied accommodations in regards to lifting heavy packages. When an injury occurred, the worker was reportedly placed on indefinite unpaid leave. Another worker was denied a modified schedule to accommodate a documented disability. Despite supplied medical documentation supporting their request, the worker was denied without reason. Another disabled worker who requested reduced hours was denied their request due to alleged insufficient medical documentation and the request was closed without further discussion or opportunity to provide said documentation.
If these allegations hold up New York’s Division of Human Rights could seek a legal decision forcing Amazon to pay civil fines and penalties, as well as ceasing discriminatory behavior and being forced to train its employees on the provisions of the Human Rights Law. As this complaint has only just been filed, it is likely to take some time before a decision is reached. Stay tuned as we continue to follow this story.