State files human rights complaint against Amazon, alleges discrimination of pregnant workers and workers with disabilities

Delivery vans in loading lot area
On Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that the state Division of Human Rights filed a complaint against Amazon alleging the company of discriminating against pregnant workers and workers with disabilities by denying them reasonable accommodations. 
Photo courtesy Amazon

A busy year for Amazon executives in New York — amid the Staten Island warehouse’s recent unionization efforts — got even busier thanks to a new complaint from the state’s human rights division.

On Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that the New York State Division of Human Rights filed a complaint against the multinational giant alleging the company of discriminating against pregnant workers and workers with disabilities by denying them reasonable accommodations as well as forcing them to take an unpaid leave of absence rather than allowing them to work with a reasonable accommodation. 

Citing the complaint of one pregnant New York-based Amazon worker, a pregnant worker requested and was approved to receive a reasonable accommodation to avoid lifting packages more than 25 pounds. However, the worksite manager refused to follow the accommodation — forcing the worker to continue lifting heavy packages.

According to officials on the state’s human rights team, despite internal complaints being raised about the lack of accommodation, Amazon took no action to ensure the needed change was carried out and the pregnant worker suffered an injury while lifting heavy packages. The worker required further accommodations as a result of the injury, but again, Amazon allegedly denied the request and forced the pregnant worker into indefinite unpaid leave. 

The New York State Human Rights Law requires that all employers, upon request, reasonably accommodate workers with disabilities or pregnancy-related conditions, including modification of job duties that allow an employee to perform the essential functions of their jobs.  

This can include modification of job duties that allow an employee to perform the essential functions of their jobs. Amazon, which operates 23 worksites — including 17 hubs/sites in the Bronx and more than 39,000 workers across New York state — employs in-house “Accommodation Consultants” to evaluate such requests and recommend appropriate action.

The state alleges that Amazon’s policy of allowing worksite managers to override the recommendations made by the Accommodations Consultant has caused Amazon employees to be denied reasonable accommodations for their disabilities and pregnancy-related conditions.  

“Since the 1970s — years before the Americans with Disabilities Act — New York State has prohibited discrimination against pregnant employees in the workplace. The Division will work to ensure that everyone in our state is fully afforded the rights and dignities that the law requires,” said Division of Human Rights Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement Melissa Franco. 

The Bronx Times sent an inquiry to Amazon for comment and are awaiting response.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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