“Culture of workplace fear” leads to COVID-19 spread at Amazon, suit says

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Enlarge / Amazon.com Inc. signage is displayed in front of a warehouse in the Staten Island borough of New York, US, on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. (credit: Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

A group of Amazon employees are suing the company, alleging it mandated unsafe working conditions in one of its fulfillment centers that led to the spread of COVID-19 and deaths resulting from the disease.

“This case is about Amazon’s failures to comply with New York law and state and federal public health guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic at the JFK8 facility,” the complaint (PDF) reads, alleging, “the company has relied on purposeful miscommunication with workers, sloppy contact tracing, and the culture of workplace fear it has instilled at JFK to ensure it can maintain productivity while reducing costs, even if that means workers come to work sick and cannot engage in proper hygiene, sanitizing, or social distancing while at work in order to stay healthy.”

At least one worker at the JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island has died of COVID-19 so far, and several others have fallen ill. As recently as this past weekend, employees at the facility were receiving additional newly confirmed cases at the facility. One of the plaintiffs in the suit alleges that after she contracted the novel coronavirus at work in the warehouse, “she awoke to find her cousin with whom she lived dead in their bathroom” after he developed COVID-19 symptoms. She requested paid quarantine leave from the company under the terms of New York law, the suit says, but Amazon failed to pay her.

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