ALBANY, N.Y. (WWTI) — The New York State Division of Human Rights filed a formal complaint against Amazon, Inc. on Wednesday.
According to New York Governor Kathy Hochul, this complaint accused the company of discriminating against pregnant workers and workers with disabilities, saying that Amazon denied them “reasonable” accommodations.
Amazon currently operates 23 worksites that employes over 39,000 workers in New York State. Each worksite has in-house “Accommodation Consultants” to evaluate requests made by employees regarding accommodations to help workers better perform the essential functions of their jobs.
However, in its complaint, the Division of Human Rights alleged that under Amazon’s accommodation policy, a pregnant worker requested and was approved to receive reasonable accommodation to avoid lifting packages over 25 pounds.
But the Division said that the Amazon worksite manager refused to follow the accommodation and “forced the worker to continue lifting heavy packages.”
Additionally, the Division alleged that another Amazon worker who requested a modified work schedule due to a disability was also denied. The worker’s condition necessitated a specific sleep schedule and the worker submitted supporting medical documentation with the request. However, the Division said that the worksite manager refused to implement the accommodation without offering any explanation.
A third incident alleged that an Amazon worker was denied an accommodation regarding a reduction of work hours due to a disability.
The policy or practice of forcing employees to take an unpaid medical leave of absence violates the New York Human Rights Law, the Division emphasized.
“Since the 1970s, years before the Americans with Disabilities Act, New York State has prohibited discrimination against pregnant employees in the workplace,” Division of Human Rights Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement Melissa Franco said in a press release. “The Division will work to ensure that everyone in our state is fully afforded the rights and dignities that the law requires.”
“My administration will hold any employer accountable, regardless of how big or small, if they do not treat their workers with the dignity and respect they deserve,” Governor Hochul added. “New York has the strongest worker protections in the nation and was one of the first to have protections for workers who are pregnant and those with disabilities. Working men and women are the backbone of New York and we will continue to take a stand against any injustice they face.”
The Division’s complaint seeks a decision requiring Amazon to cease its discriminatory conduct, adopt non-discriminatory policies and practices regarding the review of requests for reasonable accommodations, train its employees on the provisions of the Human Rights Law, and pay civil fines and penalties to the State of New York.
In response to the complaints, Amazon issued the following statement:
“Ensuring all our employees, including those with disabilities and expectant mothers, feel safe and supported is extremely important to Amazon and we have numerous programs to ensure that’s the case, and while we don’t always get it right with a workforce of over 1.6 million people, we work diligently to offer the best available options to accommodate individual situations. 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.”Amazon, Inc.