Lawsuit claims Amazon caused COVID-19 deaths for failure to apply safety measures

* Employees experienced a culture of workplace fear, threat of automatic, immediate job loss ─Plaintiffs

* ‘We are saddened by the tragic impact of COVID-19,’ responds Amazon

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Having apparently created ‘a facade of compliance’ with safety standards, following the outbreak of the tragic novel Coronavirus, several Amazon workers have slammed the global e-commerce giant with a lawsuit accusing it of failure to adequately protect its warehouse employees, precisely at a fulfillment centre in New York, United States (US).

Barbara Chandler, one of the plaintiffs and COVID-19 patient, believes she contracted Coronavirus infection in March 2020 while working at a warehouse in the state, reports ConsumerAffairs.

Chandler claims she experienced “a culture of workplace fear reinforced by constant technological supervision, retaliation against those who speak out, and the threat of automatic and immediate job loss in a job market where it may be impossible to find work elsewhere.”

According to her, she brought the virus home to her family, and her cousin died less than a month later after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Several other Amazon workers are plaintiffs in the suit.

It was learnt that the group of warehouse employees and their relatives say Amazon failed to enforce safety measures to keep workers and their families from contracting COVID-19 pandemic.

Though the lawsuit doesn’t seek damages, it only demands “an order requiring Amazon to comply with public health guidance to prevent more harm in the future.”

On implementing safety standards adequately, report stated that Amazon has faced criticisms from workers and lawmakers alike over its handling of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Lawmakers have previously accused the company of not doing enough to protect warehouse workers.

Certain employees have said they were still required to work in close proximity during the COVID-19 outbreak, and others said they feared they would be fired for speaking out about their concerns at the time.

Subsequently, Amazon fired at least four workers who were outspoken about their experience working at a warehouse during the pandemic, prompting the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to look into the matter.

‘Facade of compliance’

The lawsuit filed in federal court in New York is different from others like it because it accuses the company of causing the death of the plaintiff’s cousin, according to report.

The complainant says: “Amazon’s failures have already caused injury and death to workers and family members of workers. At least one JFK8 worker has died from COVID-19, and there are rumours of additional deaths among JFK8 workers.

“Workers have brought the virus home to family members, some of whom have also tragically died.”

Chandler and the other plaintiffs claim that, in actuality, Amazon created a “facade of compliance” with safety standards in the midst of the pandemic.

The plaintiff has accused Amazon of purposefully miscommunicating with workers, engaging in “sloppy” contact tracing, and instilling a “culture of workplace fear” at JFK8 to “ensure it can maintain productivity while reducing costs.”

Subsequently, workers “come to work sick and cannot engage in proper hygiene, sanitising, or social distancing while at work in order to stay healthy,” claims the lawsuit.

In its response to the allegations, Amazon states that its measures to deal with the outbreak in terms of both the surge in demand and worker safety have included implementing hazard pay, expanding sick policies, and adding 175,000 new warehouse and delivery workers.

The company says it has updated 150 processes to protect worker safety and spent more than $800 million in the first half of this year on new safety programs.

Lisa Levandowski, Amazon Spokesperson, in a statement, said: “We are saddened by the tragic impact COVID-19 has had on communities across the globe, including on some Amazon team members and their family and friends.”

“From early March to May 1, we offered our employees unlimited time away from work, and since May 1 we have offered leave for those most vulnerable or who need to care for children or family members.”

Amazon.com, Inc. is an online retailer of books, music, videos, toys, electronics, and other products.

In addition to selling products over the World Wide Web, Amazon.com administers online auctions for items ranging from postcards to personal property.

The company also provides its customers with services, including an Internet-based address book and personal calendar, and a comparison-shopping tool. Amazon.com is based in Seattle, Washington, US.

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