Amazon fires NY worker over coronavirus social distancing violations

Amazon said the employee allegedly violated terms of employment, including leaving a paid quarantine to participate in the demonstration

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Amazon fired an employee who helped organize a demonstration at a Staten Island, New York facility, bringing attention to worker concerns during the coronavirus crisis.

The retailer said he allegedly violated terms of employment, including leaving a paid quarantine to participate in the demonstration.

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Amazon issued statements disputing comments from Christian Smalls, who had accused the company of mishandling warehouse operations after a confirmed case of coronavirus.

Amazon said Smalls was on a paid quarantine after having close contact with a diagnosed worker, and had "received multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines," leading to his dismissal.

"Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, further putting the teams at risk. This is unacceptable and we have terminated his employment as a result of these multiple safety issues," according to an Amazon statement.

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Smalls responded in a statement .

“Amazon would rather fire workers than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us, our families, and our communities safe. I am outraged and disappointed, but I’m not shocked. As usual, Amazon would rather sweep a problem under the rug than act to keep workers and working communities safe."

"I’m going to keep speaking up. My colleagues in New York and all around the country are going to keep speaking up. We won’t stop until Amazon provides real protections for our health and safety," he said.

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Amazon said it has taken "extreme measures" to clean buildings and obtain safety gear and that "the vast majority of employees continue to show up and do the heroic work of delivering for customers every day."

Letitia James, the New York Attorney General, issued a statement.

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“It is disgraceful that Amazon would terminate an employee who bravely stood up to protect himself and his colleagues."

The Attorney General's office is considering all legal options and calling on the National Labor Relations Board to investigate.