Governor Kathy Hochul said that a New York state agency has filed a lawsuit accusing Amazon.com Inc of discriminating against pregnant and handicapped workers at its workplaces.
Amazon has also been accused of having practices that force employees to take unpaid leaves of absence even if they are capable of working, rather than offering reasonable accommodations.
The New York State Division of Human Rights chastised Amazon for allowing workplace managers to disregard recommendations from the company’s in-house “accommodation experts” who suggested that workers’ schedules or duties be changed.
Employers must give reasonable accommodations to pregnant and handicapped employees who request them under state law. It also considers medical issues caused by pregnancy to be impairments.
“Any company, no matter how big or little, will be held accountable if they do not treat their employees with the decency and respect they deserve,” Hochul said in a statement.
Hochul’s statement was unexpected, according to Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel, because the Seattle-based corporation has been collaborating and working closely with the New York regulator.
She also stated that Amazon considers it “very vital” that all employees feel protected and supported, and that the company works carefully to give accommodations, despite the fact that “we don’t always get it right” with over 1.6 million employees.
Except for Walmart Inc., Amazon is the largest private employer in the United States. In New York, it employs around 39,000 people at 23 different locations.
The corporation has come under fire for its handling of employees, including those who have sought unionization.
Six Democratic senators, including Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, called on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to look into Amazon’s alleged “systematic” refusal to accommodate pregnant warehouse employees in September.
According to the lawsuit, Amazon compelled a pregnant worker to continue carrying shipments weighing more than 25 pounds (11 kg) and then placed her on extended unpaid vacation once she was harmed.
Amazon also overruled suggestions to allow two handicapped workers to vary their work schedules after their bosses objected.
The Division of Human Rights’ complaints are kept private.
Amazon is suing for specific monetary fines and penalties, as well as better training and new protocols for considering requests for reasonable accommodations.
Penalties for violations can range from $50,000 to $100,000 for willful wrongdoing.
State Attorney General Letitia James has also filed a lawsuit against the firm.
A state appeals court dismissed her complaint on May 10, charging Amazon of failing to safeguard workers at two New York City locations from COVID-19 and unjustly retaliating against two employees who opposed the circumstances.