NEW YORK City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that the city is launching an investigation into Amazon over 'human rights abuses' during the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement was made at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, NY.
The Amazon distribution center in New York City will be investigated over allegations that a worker was fired for raising health and safety concerns.
The worker claims he was fired for demanding greater protections for employees.
Chris Smalls, a 31-year-old management assistant, organized a walkout from the company’s Staten Island facility on Monday.
“They pretty much retaliated against me for speaking out,” Smalls told the New York Post. “I don’t know how they sleep at night.”
Smalls and roughly a dozen other employees walked out, asking Amazon to temporarily close the fulfilment center, which employs more than 5,000 people, to clean it after a worker tested positive for the virus last week.
The striking workers also demanded Amazon provide employees who are sick or need to be self-quarantined with paid time off.
About 100 workers were expected to attend the rally, but Amazon said 15 people participated.
Amazon said in a statement to The Sun on Tuesday that Smalls was fired for violating social distancing guidelines.
The company said Smalls came into "close contact" with an employee who tested positive for coronavirus, and didn’t quarantine himself for 14 days, as requested by Amazon.
“Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came on site today, March 30, further putting the teams at risk."
The statement continued: “This is unacceptable and we have terminated his employment as a result of these multiple safety issues.”
On Monday, New York Attorney General Letitia James released a statement about the termination: “It is disgraceful that Amazon would terminate an employee who bravely stood up to protect himself and his colleagues.
"At the height of a global pandemic, Chris Smalls and his colleagues publicly protested the lack of precautions that Amazon was taking to protect them from COVID-19.
"Today, Chris Smalls was fired. In New York, the right to organize is codified into law, and any retaliatory action by management related thereto is strictly prohibited.
"At a time when so many New Yorkers are struggling and are deeply concerned about their safety, this action was also immoral and inhumane.
"The Office of the Attorney General is considering all legal options, and I am calling on the National Labor Relations Board to investigate this incident.”
The US coronavirus death toll currently stand at 3,415, with at least 165,874 confirmed cases.
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