Amazon sued for failing to protect Black and Brown workers during COVID-19

Former Amazon, Inc. employee Chris Smalls sued his former employer on behalf of a class of similarly situated African American and Latino workers for its failure to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and complying with other safety guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. “As New York City was fast becoming the epicenter of this deadly and brutal disease, Amazon knowingly subjected its majority-minority line workers to unsafe, dangerous, and inferior work conditions as compared to its white employees working in managerial classifications. When Chris Smalls organized workers against Amazon’s discriminatory practices by voicing his opposition in an effort to protect the workers, he was fired.

In an attempt to further discredit Chris Smalls, Amazon concluded that as a Black man, he would serve as a “weak spokesman” for the workers and criticized him for standing up and fighting for the workers”, said Smalls’ attorney CK Hoffler. “Over 240,000 people have died in the United States from COVID-19 and millions have been infected, but Amazon was cavalier with the safety of its employees amidst this pandemic. Amazon puts profits before people and placed its workers at risk.” The lawsuit alleges violations of 42 U.S.C Section 1981 as well as Executive Law of State of New York and section 8-107(7) of the New York City Human Rights Law, among other things. The New York Attorney General’s office is also investigating a whistleblower action against Amazon related to Chris Smalls’ claims and allegations.

“I was a loyal worker and gave my all to Amazon until I was unceremoniously terminated and tossed aside like yesterday’s trash because I insisted that Amazon protect its dedicated workers from COVID-19,” said Smalls who had been employed at Amazon for 4 ½ years before the termination. “I just wanted Amazon to provide basic protective gear to the workers and sanitize the workplace”

Famed civil rights icon Reverend Jesse Jackson and Rainbow Push Coalition are also supporting Smalls’ fight against Amazon. “I have spent my entire career fighting against the type of oppression that Chris and his fellow workers experienced at JFK8 and around the world,” said Jackson, the legendary civil rights leader. “It’s a shame that Amazon would not protect its workers and laborers, exposing them to one of the deadliest enemies in modern history— COVID-19. It’s not right and I applaud Chris for his courage under fire. We, too, stand in solidarity with him on this journey. COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black and Brown communities on so many levels, from warehouses to jailhouses. It’s an invisible enemy that is killing our communities. Chris’s case is a classic example of how corporate greed and insensitivity can literally expose communities to untold and unnecessary risks. We must continue to fight for the voiceless who can’t fight for themselves because of their circumstances.” Chris Smalls is also represented by civil rights attorney Michael H. Sussman from Goshen.

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