December 1, 2022

Judge tells Amazon to stop retaliation from organizers

NEW YORK — A federal judge has ordered Amazon to stop retaliating against employees engaged in workplace activism, issuing a mixed ruling that also inflicts loss on the federal labor agency that sued the company earlier this year.

The decision came in a legal case brought by the National Labor Relations Board, which sued Amazon in March for the reinstatement of a terminated employee involved in organizing a corporate warehouse in Staten Island, NY.

In its lawsuit, the agency argued that Amazon’s firing of former employee Gerald Bryson was unlawful and would have a chilling effect on the organization. He said that not reinstating Bryson in his role would cause workers to believe that the agency would not be able to protect their labor rights under federal law.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Diane Gujarati ruled there was “reasonable cause” to believe the e-commerce giant committed an unfair labor practice in firing Bryson. She issued a cease and desist order directing the Seattle-based company not to retaliate against employees involved in workplace activism.

But Gujarati rejected the agency’s request to reinstate Bryson. She determined that the NLRB had not presented evidence that Bryson’s firing had a significant effect on the organizing efforts of employees or the Amazon Labor Union, the fledgling Bryson-linked group that ultimately won the entire contest. first union victory in an Amazon warehouse in the United States. in March.

In its ruling, Gujarati also noted that Bryson was fired before the union was formed, which differentiates it from other cases where a downturn in support for the organization has manifested itself after a union activist has been fired.

Bryson was fired in April 2020, weeks after participating in a protest against working conditions at the start of the covid-19 pandemic. While not at work during a second protest, he got into an argument with another employee. Amazon conducted its own investigation into the dispute and cited a violation of the company’s vulgar language policy for firing Bryson. The company denies that the dismissal was related to organizational activities.

Shortly after Bryson was fired, he filed a complaint with the NLRB. An administrative law judge concluded earlier this year that the company conducted a “biased investigation” into the dispute aimed at blaming Bryson. Amazon said it would appeal the decision through the NLRB’s administrative process. Friday’s court ruling stems from a separate federal case filed by the agency, which does not have enforcement powers.

On Friday, Gujarati ordered Amazon to release English and Spanish copies of the court order at the Staten Island facility that voted to unionize. She also ordered the company to distribute electronic copies to employees and hold a mandatory meeting where the order can be read aloud.