Amazon Sues New York in Bid to Pre-Empt Coronavirus Lawsuit

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Amazon claims New York does not have the power to impose its own laws on the company.

Amazon filed a lawsuit against New York at the last minute to prevent the state from suing the digital retailer for dealing with work safety amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Brooklyn on Friday, is a reminder of how New York Attorney General Letitia James repeatedly threatened to sue Amazon over its security protocol.

According to Amazon, James provided the company with a list of requirements to avoid litigation. Among other things, James had asked Amazon to slow down its production speeds and change its performance requirements.

James also asked Amazon to pay “small sums of money” to Christian Smalls, an Amazon warehouse employee who quit after protesting the company’s COIVD response.

Smalls, the Wall Street Journal notes, organized a mass visit to one of the Amazon State Island facilities.

A few weeks after Smalls’ defiance, Amazon fired him. Although the company claims it fired Smalls for unrelated reasons – including an alleged non-compliance with social distancing protocol – Smalls and his allies say he has clearly been retaliatory.

New York Attorney General and former City Councilor Letitia James. Image via Wikimedia Commons / User: Matthew Cohen. (CCA-BY-2.0).

However, Amazon now claims that James has no legal authority to regulate. In his lawsuit, Amazon attorneys alleged that the company’s business “is subject to federal law and is enforced by federal regulators.”

As a result, according to Amazon, the New York attorney general lacks “the legal authority it wants to exercise.”

“Amazon cannot accept the OAG’s attempt to subject Amazon to an inconsistent and unfair standard for workplace safety that is anticipated by federal law and assigned to the primary jurisdiction of federal regulators – especially if the underlying facts show that Amazon has a has done an exemplary job responding to an unprecedented global pandemic, ”wrote Amazon in its lawsuit.

Amazon has now asked a judge to determine that James is not empowered to regulate workplace safety – and to ensure that their office cannot file a lawsuit over the same matter.

But James said neither she nor her department would be intimidated by a clear case of corporate intimidation.

On Friday, James described Amazon’s preemptive lawsuit as “a sad attempt to divert attention from the facts and shirk responsibility for failing to protect hardworking employees from a deadly virus.

“We’re not going to be intimidated by anyone, especially corporate bullies who make profits on the health and safety of working people,” James said in a statement. “We remain firm in our efforts to protect workers from exploitation and will continue to examine all of our legal options.”

Smalls, adds Reuters, has pledged to continue to protest on behalf of his former colleagues. in November he filed a class action lawsuit seeking damages for minority workers.

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