Pennsylvania AG: State can't file N.Y.-style Amazon lawsuit

Jim Dino, Standard-Speaker, Hazleton, Pa.
·3 min read

Feb. 22—Pennsylvania can't file a lawsuit like New York state did against Amazon last week over its failures to provide adequate health and safety measures for employees at the company's New York facilities and Amazon's retaliatory actions against multiple employees amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office said Thursday a suit like New York's is unlikely, given Pennsylvania law, "but we are doing everything we can to support local authorities in ensuring safety for workers and to point them to our guidance," the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office said in the statement.

Employees at the Amazon fulfillment center in the Humboldt Industrial Park complained at the beginning of the pandemic that the company was not providing cleaning materials, not practicing social distancing and did not close down to disinfect the building, among other alleged violations.

When state Sen. John Yudichak, I-14, Swoyersville, spearheaded formation of a coalition of local code enforcement inspectors to look at facilities like Amazon, they complied.

"The New York Executive Law gives the AG's office broad jurisdiction over businesses in the state. Pennsylvania's law, the Commonwealth Attorneys Act, does not give us the same broad authority and as such our office does not have jurisdiction over this matter," the statement read.

A multi-state initiative, which included the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office during the early months of the pandemic — led by colleagues in Massachusetts — investigated working conditions at Amazon and Whole Foods facilities in various locations.

"When our office received complaints, we raised them and made sure they were corrected. These matters were resolved voluntarily by the company," the statement read.

Any complaints should still be directed to: https://www.attorneygeneral.gov /submit-a-complaint/.

In the New York lawsuit, Amazon allegedly failed to maintain a safe work environment by reasonably protecting workers from the spread of COVID-19. By doing so, Amazon violated New York State Labor Law. In addition, Amazon unlawfully fired and disciplined employees that objected to Amazon's unsafe work conditions.

The evidence gathered through the New York investigation also demonstrates that Amazon unlawfully fired and disciplined workers who reported their concerns about Amazon's compliance with these health and safety mandates.

The lawsuit, filed in the Supreme Court of New York County, argues that Amazon's actions are in violation of New York labor, whistleblower protection and anti-retaliation laws.

"While Amazon and its CEO made billions during this crisis, hardworking employees were forced to endure unsafe conditions and were retaliated against for rightfully voicing these concerns," New York Attorney General Letitia James said. "Since the pandemic began, it is clear that Amazon has valued profit over people and has failed to ensure the health and safety of its workers. The workers who have powered this country and kept it going during the pandemic are the very workers who continue to be treated the worst. As we seek to hold Amazon accountable for its actions, my office remains dedicated to protecting New York workers from exploitation and unfair treatment in all forms."

Contact the writer:

jdino@standardspeaker.com

570-501-3585