New York's AG is trying to force Amazon to re-hire a worker it fired after he led a protest over COVID-19 safety conditions

New York's AG is trying to force Amazon to re-hire a worker it fired after he led a protest over COVID-19 safety conditions
Chris Smalls was fired from his job at Amazon's JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island in March 2020.Craig Ruttle/AP Photo
  • New York's AG filed for an injunction which would force Amazon to re-hire fired warehouse worker Chris Smalls.
  • Amazon fired Smalls in March 2020 after he protested COVID-19 safety conditions.

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a motion for an injunction on Tuesday which, if passed, would order Amazon to re-hire a worker it fired at the start of the pandemic.

Chris Smalls worked at Amazon's JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island until March 2020, when he organised a protest of COVID-19 safety conditions inside the facility. Smalls was fired on the same day as the protest. Amazon said at the time he was fired because he had broken social distancing rules.

James issued a statement at the time which said she thought Smalls' firing was "disgraceful," and filed a lawsuit against Amazon in February 2021 over its COVID-19 safety measures.

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James' investigation demonstrated that Amazon "unlawfully fired and disciplined workers who reported their concerns about the company's compliance" with certain health and safety mandates, including Christian Smalls, the attorney general said in a press release Tuesday.

James' motion seeks to force Amazon to offer Smalls an interim reinstatement.


Smalls filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon in November 2020 which alleged the company illegally discriminated against workers of color and immigrants by failing to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and implement COVID-19 safety measures.

Smalls is currently heavily involved in an organization called the Amazon Labor Union, which is trying to unionize JFK8. He submitted a petition to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a union election in October, but withdrew the petition in November after failing to meet the threshold for union authorization cards.

James' injunction also seeks to force Amazon to implement more safety procedures inside JFK8, saying the investigation "uncovered evidence showing that Amazon's health and safety response violated state law by not providing reasonable and adequate protection to employees."

Specifically James wants the court to appoint a monitor to oversee the implementation of three major changes.

Firstly, James says Amazon needs to ease up on the way it closely monitors worker productivity, as this means workers don't take the time to observe safety procedures such as hand-washing and social distancing.


James also said cleaning and disinfection inside the warehouse was inadequate.

Finally, James said Amazon's COVID-19 contact tracing protocols were deficient and failed to properly notify close contacts.

It echoes a complaint lodged by California Attorney General Rob Bonta who said Amazon "failed to adequately notify warehouse workers and local health agencies of COVID-19 case numbers, often leaving them in the dark and unable to effectively track the spread of the virus."

Amazon reached a $500,000 settlement with the California attorney general.

Amazon did not immediately respond when contacted by Insider for comment on James' filing.