KEY POINTS

  • The appeals court said the COVID-19 rules the lawsuit seeks to enforce have been withdrawn
  • James claimed in the lawsuit that Amazon failed to provide adequate protection to its workers in two NYC facilities
  • Two ALU members said they have been fired

The Appellate Division in Manhattan, New York, has dismissed the lawsuit of Attorney General Letitia James against Amazon. James’ lawsuit accused the e-commerce company of failing to provide its workers with adequate protection and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The appeals court said in its Tuesday filing that the lawsuit “must be dismissed as moot, as the state has withdrawn the public health guidance that the claim seeks to enforce.” Furthermore, the appellate court said the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) should be “the forum for disputes arising out of the conduct” and “not the states.”

The recent development is a win for Amazon after a state trial judge rejected the company’s bid to dismiss James’ lawsuit in October, Reuters reported. Amazon also lost its bid to dismiss New York’s authority to launch a probe into a fulfilment center on Staten Island in August.

James sued Amazon in February 2021, accusing the e-commerce giant of failing to protect its workers in two New York City facilities against the novel coronavirus. At that time, the New York AG said, “since the pandemic, it is clear that Amazon has valued profit over people and has failed to ensure the health and safety of its workers.”

Besides accusing Amazon of failing to comply with COVID-19 guidelines to protect its employees, James also said the company retaliated against its employees who expressed concerns about potentially unsafe working conditions.

In a statement, James’ deputy press secretary Morgan Rubin said that the Attorney General’s office will review the appeals court decision “and our options moving forward.” He added that James “remains committed to protecting Amazon workers, and all workers, from unfair treatment,” Axios reported.

News of the lawsuit’s dismissal came a day after members of the Amazon Labor Union’s (ALU) organizing committee, Mat Cusick and Tristan Dutchin, said they were fired by the company last week.

Dutchin, a package picker at JFK8, Amazon’s largest warehouse in New York City, told CNBC that the e-commerce company told him he was unable to meet productivity goals when he was fired after completing his shift Saturday. Cusick, on the other hand, told the outlet that he was fired after taking a “Covid care leave.” The said leave gives employees time off of work to care for COVID-infected family members.

Cusick added that he was locked out of the internal employee portal. CNBC viewed a letter sent to Cusick from Amazon, informing him that he was fired on the grounds of “job abandonment.” For Cusick, his dismissal was “an automated termination.”

Amazon has yet to respond to Axis’ requests for a comment on the lawsuit’s dismissal.

Amazon logo is seen at the company's logistics centre in Boves The Amazon logo is seen at the company's logistics centre in Boves, France, February 11, 2022. Photo: Reuters / PASCAL ROSSIGNOL