Tech

Amazon accused of discrimination against pregnant and disabled workers in New York

Key Points
  • New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday announced a state agency has filed a complaint against Amazon, alleging it discriminates against pregnant workers and workers with disabilities.
  • The agency is calling on Amazon to "pay civil fines and penalties to the State of New York," as well as cease its discriminatory conduct, among other remedies.

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Staff make their way around the aisles collecting items before sending them to the on-site dispatch hall to be packaged inside one of Britain's largest Amazon warehouses in Dunfermline, Fife.
Jane Barlow | PA Images | Getty Images

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday announced the state's Division of Human Rights has filed a complaint against Amazon alleging it discriminates against pregnant workers and workers with disabilities at its facilities.

Amazon also allegedly forces pregnant workers and workers with disabilities to take unpaid leaves of absence, rather than providing them with reasonable accommodations, according to the complaint.

The state cites several cases where Amazon allegedly failed to reasonably accommodate workers within its facilities. In one incident, a pregnant worker was given approval to avoid lifting packages over 25 pounds, but a manager refused to follow the accommodation, which meant the worker kept lifting heavy items.

Amazon denied additional accommodations after the worker was injured, and they were subsequently put on "indefinite unpaid leave," the complaint alleges.

The division claims Amazon fails to provide reasonable accommodations, in part, because it allows managers to override recommendations made by "Accommodation Consultants," whose job it is to evaluate and recommend accommodations.

Investigators claim Amazon's conduct violates the state's Human Rights Law, which prohibits discriminating against workers who are pregnant and disabled, among other factors, in the workplace.

They're calling on Amazon to "pay civil fines and penalties to the State of New York," as well as cease its discriminatory conduct, and adopt nondiscriminatory policies and practices concerning requests for accommodations, among other remedies.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told CNBC in a statement that the company works to offer "the best available options to accommodate" employees with disabilities and expectant mothers and offers several programs "to ensure that's the case."

"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," Nantel added. "Since we haven't received the complaint ourselves yet, we're not in a position to comment further."

Amazon's labor practices, including its treatment of pregnant workers, have been criticized in the past. The company has faced lawsuits from workers at its warehouses, who alleged the company failed to accommodate them once they were pregnant, then fired them for failing to meet performance standards, according to CNET.

And last September, six U.S. senators wrote to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, urging the agency to investigate a "concerning pattern of mistreatment of pregnant employees" at Amazon warehouses.

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