Amazon illegally fired employees who spoke out about conditions, board finds

“We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions," said an Amazon spokesperson

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Amazon is being accused of illegally firing employees for speaking out.

Read More: Black Lives Matter backs Amazon union push in Alabama

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently determined that Amazon’s firing of two of its employees was retaliatory because those employees spoke out against the company. But Amazon denies the allegations, per The Hill.

“We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against our internal policies, all of which are lawful,” an Amazon spokesperson Jaci Anderson said to The New York Times. “We terminated these employees not for talking publicly about working conditions, safety or sustainability but, rather, for repeatedly violating internal policies.”

NLRB, an independent government agency responsible for enforcing labor laws, found that the employee’s claims had merit. Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa said they were fired for supporting individuals who protested against unsafe warehouse conditions due to COVID-19 and because they spoke against the company’s climate policies. They worked as designers at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, per the Times.

Costa and Cunningham were also members of a group called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice which advocates for the company to address its climate footprint.

“It’s a moral victory and really shows that we are on the right side of history and the right side of the law,” Cunningham said to the Times. 

Per NLRB, a regional director will put in a formal complaint if the issue is not rectified. Since February 2020, the organization has filed three dozen charges against Amazon.

The NLRB is in the process of counting votes for the unionization of Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama warehouse. If the process is successful, it will be the first Amazon union in the country.

“Amazon’s illegal retaliation against these whistleblowers makes the Amazon union election in Alabama even more urgent as Bessemer employees exercise their right to make their voices heard,” said United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International President Marc Perrone in a statement.

The behemoth corporation is also under fire for revoking job offers to those who tested positive for weed, as per theGrio.

A New York City man has filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon after his job offer was revoked after he tested positive for marijuana during a drug test.

According to the NY Daily News, in the lawsuit, Michael Thomas said he was offered a position at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York last November as a package sorter. After not hearing from the company for more than a month, Thomas called them, only to discover that he was removed from further consideration. The job, which pays $17.25 per hour, was contingent upon the results of the test.

The suit, filed in Brooklyn Federal Court on Friday, claims that Amazon violated the New York Human Rights Laws, which prohibits pre-employment marijuana testing except for employees who will operate heavy machinery. TMZ reported that he’s suing for damages and an injunction to block the company from further revoking job offers due to marijuana use.

As of May 10, 2020, “covered employers are not permitted to test job candidates for marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as a condition of employment. There are several exceptions, discussed further below, where testing job applicants for marijuana or THC for specific kinds of jobs is still permitted,” according to the Jackson Lewis Drug and Alcohol Testing Law Advisor.

The suit argues that the job didn’t meet the specifications for a marijuana test. Amazon hasn’t responded to the accusation.

“A significant portion of the general public now uses some form of recreational marijuana,” Thomas’s lawyers said in the lawsuit.

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“With substantial growth and turnover, the high number of employees working at its New York City facilities, the prevalence of marijuana usage and Amazon’s uniform policy to screen prospective employee for marijuana use. Amazon has refused to hire more than 100 individuals because they tested positive for marijuana in a pre-employment drug screen.”

Additional reporting by Ashley Terrell

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