Amazon FIRES worker who demanded warehouse be closed over coronavirus after at least 19 cases across company – The Sun

AN AMAZON worker claims he was fired for demanding greater protections for employees who were exposed to the coronavirus at a New York warehouse.

Chris Smalls, a 31-year-old management assistant, organized a walkout from the company’s Staten Island facility, which was held 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 fulfillment 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 the 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.”

Amazon also described the employees’ claims as “unfounded,” and said the company has been taking “extreme measures” to protect people.

The company says they’ve enhanced cleaning and sanitation and social distancing enforcement.

At the Staten Island facility, employees’ temperatures are taken daily, Amazon told The Sun.

"Our employees are heroes fighting for their communities and helping people get critical items they need in this crisis," the statement read.

"Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable."

Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, is offering a temporary $2 raise in hourly wages through the end of April, and up to two weeks of paid time off for anyone who tests positive for coronavirus or who is quarantined.

That includes workers at its warehouses, delivery centers and Whole Foods grocery stores, all of whom make at least $15 an hour.

New York Attorney General Letitia James called Smalls’ firing “disgraceful” on Twitter.

“In this midst of a pandemic, Chris Smalls & his colleagues bravely protested the lack of precautions that @amazon employed to protect them from #COVID19. Then he was fired.”

James tweeted: “I'm considering all legal options & calling on the [National Labor Relations Board] to investigate.”

Smalls said of Amazon: "It's a shame on them."

He told VICE News: “This is a proven fact of why they don’t care about their employees, to fire someone after five years for sticking up for people and trying to give them a voice.”

Smalls said he was around the Staten Island employee who contracted the coronavirus for less than five minutes, while his co-workers were in contact with the employee "for ten-plus hours a week." He said they weren't asked to quarantine.

The former Amazon employee said he plans to pursue legal action against the company.

“It’s a no brainer. Anyone can see this is a direct target,” he said. “It’s not gonna stop me. I'm gonna continue to fight.”

Amazon is one of the biggest companies working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

As people are urged to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus, the company has seen a swift rise in orders — pushing the company to seek 100,000 additional workers.

At least 19 Amazon facilities across the U.S. have reported one or more coronavirus cases, according to a tally from Reuters.

In New York, the epicenter of the country’s outbreak, a delivery station in Queens temporarily closed on March 19 after an employee tested positive for the virus.

Outside of the tri-state area, facilities in California, Oklahoma, Indiana, Washington, Michigan, Texas, Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania and Kentucky have been affected.

At the company’s facility in Shepherdsville, Ky., three people tested positive for the coronavirus, according to WDRB.

The site, which is said to mainly handle customer returns, was temporarily closed for cleaning, but some employees thought that wasn’t long enough.

Whole Workers, a group for Whole Foods employees, is calling for a nationwide “sick out” on Wednesday.

The group is demanding hazard pay, an immediate shut down of stores if an employee tests positive, and health care benefits for part-time and seasonal workers.

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