New York state's Division of Human Rights has filed a complaint against Amazon that claims that the company forces workers who are pregnant and workers with disabilities to take unpaid leave instead of making accommodations for them that would allow them to continue working.
New York's Human Rights Law requires that companies make changes to work schedules and job functions when workers request them because of a pregnancy or a disability. The law also gives the state the power to investigate and then prosecute companies that don't abide by the law's requirements.
The state claims that in its investigation it found one of the company's "Accommodation Consultants" proscribed appropriate modifications for a pregnant worker, but the worksite manager refused to follow those recommendations. That failure then resulted in injury to the pregnant worker, and then the worker was forced onto unpaid leave.
"We’re surprised by the governor’s announcement this morning because we’ve been cooperating and working closely with her investigator on this matter and had no indication a complaint was coming. Since we haven’t received the complaint ourselves yet, we’re not in a position to comment further," Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, wrote in a statement to Protocol.
Amazon's warehouse serious injury rate is nearly double that of Walmart — its closest competitor in size and scale — and hovers at more than double the national average for warehousing, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration data. Injuries at Amazon made up almost half of all warehouse injuries in the United States in 2021, according to a report from labor and union organizing group the Strategic Organizing Center. Several states have proposed bills that attempt to rein in the productivity expectations that are often blamed for the company's notorious injury rate, and California's bill went into effect in 2022.
In its complaint, New York state is demanding that the company set new standards for reviewing accommodations requests, train employees on the state's Human Rights Law and pay fines.
This story was updated on May 18 with a statement from Amazon.