NLRB says Amazon illegally fired a warehouse worker protesting safety conditions in March

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NLRB says Amazon illegally fired a warehouse worker protesting safety conditions in March
Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images
  • The NLRB found merit in a claim that Amazon retaliated against an employee who protested safety conditions, the agency told Business Insider.
  • Gerald Bryson led a protest in April over working conditions.
  • At the time, Amazon said Bryson was fired for bullying other employees.

An investigation by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found merit in the case that Amazon illegally fired a warehouse worker for organizing other employees around COVID-19 safety concerns, the agency confirmed to Business Insider on Thursday.

The worker, Gerald Bryson, worked at a Staten Island Amazon fulfillment center, where he was part of a protest in March about Amazon's health and safety policies amid the pandemic, led by assistant manager Chris Smalls after a coworker tested positive for the virus.

The news was first reported by Vice's Motherboard on Thursday.

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This finding doesn't mark the end of the case. Amazon can settle with Bryson, or the NLRB will move forward with bringing a case against the company.

"We look forward to sharing the facts on this case before an administrative law judge should the NLRB issue a complaint," Lisa Levandowski, an Amazon spokesperson, told Business Insider in a statement.

Smalls said Amazon fired him in retaliation, and Amazon told Business Insider that Smalls was fired violating social distancing guidelines and "putting the safety of others at risk." After Smalls was fired, Bryson led another protest at the warehouse on April 6 before he too was fired, Motherboard reported.

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At the time, Amazon told CNET that Bryson was fired for demeaning other employees, a position which the company maintains.

"We believe the facts of this case are clear: Mr. Bryson was witnessed by other employees bullying and intimidating a female associate in a racially and sexually charged way - a clear violation of our standards of conduct and harassment policy," Levandowski's statement said. "Bryson also admitted to his actions."

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"Perhaps the larger question is why is the NLRB is defending a person who screamed profanities and racial slurs at a fellow employee," the statement continues.

"We respect the rights of employees to protest and recognize their legal right to do so, but these rights do not provide blanket immunity against bad actions, including those that harass, discriminate against, or intimidate another employee," Amazon told CNET in April.

The NLRB is required to look into all claims about illegal retaliation against employees, and the federal agency has been looking into several cases of potential retaliation by Amazon throughout the pandemic.

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"I know I was fired for organizing at Amazon and the NLRB agrees. I started this fight for my fellow employees, for my brothers and sisters. I stood up for a safe and healthy environment, which Amazon did not provide" Bryson told Motherboard of the ruling.

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