NEW YORK, May 18 (Reuters) - A New York state agency has
accused Amazon.com Inc in a complaint of discriminating
against pregnant and disabled workers at its worksites, Governor
Kathy Hochul said on Wednesday.
Amazon was also accused of having policies requiring workers
to take unpaid leaves of absence, even if they are capable of
working, instead of providing reasonable accommodations.
The New York State Division of Human Rights faulted Amazon
for giving worksite managers the power to ignore the company's
in-house "accommodation consultants" who recommended that
workers receive modified schedules or job responsibilities.
State law requires employers provide reasonable
accommodations to pregnant and disabled workers who ask. It also
treats pregnancy-related medical conditions as disabilities.
"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," Hochul said
in a statement.
Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said Hochul's announcement
was surprising because the Seattle-based company had been
cooperating and working closely with the New York regulator.
She also said Amazon considers it "extremely important" that
all employees feel safe and supported, and works diligently to
provide accommodations, while acknowledging that with more than
1.6 million employees "we don't always get it right."
Amazon is the largest U.S. private employer other than
Walmart Inc. It operates 23 worksites with more than
39,000 workers in New York.
The company has faced growing criticism over its treatment
of workers, including some whom have pushed for unionization.
Last September, six Democratic senators including New York's
Kirsten Gillibrand called on the U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission to investigate Amazon's alleged
"systemic" failure to accommodate pregnant warehouse workers.
Wednesday's complaint described how Amazon allegedly forced
one pregnant worker to continue lifting packages over 25 pounds
(11 kg), and put her on indefinite unpaid leave after she was
It also said Amazon reversed recommendations to let two
disabled workers modify their work schedules, after their
managers resisted the changes.
Complaints filed by the Division of Human Rights are
The Amazon complaint seeks unspecified civil fines and
penalties, improved training, and new policies for reviewing of
requests for reasonable accommodations.
Violations can result in penalties of up to $50,000, or
$100,000 for willful conduct.
Amazon's profit was $33.4 billion in 2021.
The company has also been the target of litigation by state
Attorney General Letitia James.
On May 10, a state appeals court dismissed her lawsuit
accusing Amazon of failing to protect workers at two New York
City facilities against COVID-19, and illegally retaliating
against two employees who protested the conditions.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional
reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by
Andrew Heavens, Chizu Nomiyama, Nick Zieminski and Marguerita