Amazon faces lawsuit alleging failure to provide PPE to workers during pandemic

Christian Smalls, a former Amazon warehouse employee, filed a lawsuit against the company
today alleging Amazon failed to provide personal protective equipment to Black and Latinx workers
during the COVID-19 pandemic. The class action suit alleges Amazon failed to properly protect its
warehouse workers and violated elements of New York City’s human rights law, as well as federal
and state laws.

“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,” Smalls said in a statement. “I just wanted Amazon to provide basic protective gear
to the workers and sanitize the workplace.” Amazon did not specifically comment on the lawsuit but
said it stands in solidarity with Black employees, customers and its partners.

“Amazon’s mission is to be the earth’s most customer-centric company, and this mission is central
to our work in diversity and inclusion,” Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski told TechCrunch.
“Diverse teams help us think bigger, and differently, about the products and services that we build
for our customers and the day-to-day nature of our workplace – this is reinforced within our 14
Leadership Principles, which remind team members to seek diverse perspectives, learn and be
curious, and constantly earn others’ trust.”

The lawsuit has support from Rev. Jesse Jackson, who said he stands in solidarity with Smalls and
other Amazon warehouse workers. “COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black and Brown
communities on so many levels, from warehouses to jailhouses,” Rev. Jackson said in a statement.
“It’s an invisible enemy that is killing our communities. Chris’ case is a classic example of how
corporate greed and insensitivity can literally expose communities to untold and unnecessary risks.”

An eighth Amazon warehouse employee has died from COVID-19

Smalls was fired from Amazon in March after organizing a walkout at one of the company’s
fulfillment centers in Staten Island. As a result, New York’s attorney general is investigating if
Amazon violated federal worker safety laws and New York state’s whistleblower protections laws by
firing Smalls.

Smalls’ termination helped galvanize other warehouse workers who later formed an international
organization to demand change inside Amazon’s warehouses. Organizers pointed to worker
retaliation as one of the driving factors for the formation of Amazon Workers International.