Amazon Loses Bid to Halt New York’s Warehouse Covid Probe
(Bloomberg) -- A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by Amazon.com Inc. challenging New York’s authority to investigate the company’s pandemic procedures at a fulfillment center on Staten Island, the latest setback for the online retailer in its ongoing clash with the state.
The suit was dismissed Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan in Brooklyn, reaffirming the validity of New York Attorney General Letitia James’s underlying lawsuit against Amazon already proceeding in state court in Manhattan.
The Seattle-based company had argued in the federal suit that James was investigating Amazon in bad faith and that her state powers to probe such health matters were preempted by federal law.
“Amazon does not explain why the Attorney General’s action -- even if brought in bad faith -- entirely lacks a legitimate purpose,” the judge wrote. “The state has a legitimate interest in ensuring that employers are complying with state labor laws, are enforcing important health safety measures, and are sanctioned for illegal conduct that occurs within the state.”
Amazon sued James in February, seeking to block New York from pursuing claims that the company failed to protect employees from the virus in its New York facilities. While the judge on Tuesday ruled James’ state lawsuit was proper, a trial on the merits could be a long way off.
“We’re disappointed with today’s procedural ruling, which the court made clear does not mean the Attorney General’s underlying claims have merit,” Amazon said in a statement. “The fact is we care deeply about the health and safety of our employees, and we’re proud of our industry-leading response to the pandemic.”
James alleges that since the start of the pandemic last March, Amazon failed to do enough cleaning and disinfection; didn’t notify workers who had been in contact with infected colleagues; and maintained productivity policies that didn’t give workers have enough time for hygiene and social distancing.
“We applaud this decision and look forward to continuing our litigation against Amazon in state court and protecting our workers,” Morgan Rubin, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general, said in a statement.
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