Amazon has been slammed for apparently firing an employee who staged a protect against the company’s COVID-19 safety measures. Speaking to Bloomberg, Chris Smalls says he was fired by the company after he and 60 employees staged a protest where they walked off their job on Monday.
Smalls, the former assistant manager at Amazon’s Staten Island fulfillment center says the group was urging the company to close the center temporarily for proper cleaning. He says following the protest, Amazon relieved him of his duties.
Amazon has faced numerous employee demonstrations because of the way it has handled the COVID-19 outbreak. Smalls says staff are working without proper safety equipment such as masks and gloves. He says there is an underlying fear amongst employees that they will contract the virus and spread it.
In a statement to Bloomberg, Amazon confirmed Smalls was fired. However, the company says he was removed because he did not comply with an order to self-isolate. Amazon says Smalls came into contact with a colleague who has COVID-19.
“Mr. Smalls received multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines and putting the safety of others at risk. [He] was asked to remain home with pay for 14 days, which is a measure we’re taking at sites around the world. Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came on site today, March 30, further putting the teams at risk.”
Amazon also refuted Smalls’ claims that 60 people were involved in Monday’s walkout. The company says 15 employees were part of the protest. Speaking on TV, Smalls said the company is hitting back against him for exposing the truth.
“Because I tried to stand up for something that’s right, the company decided to retaliate against me.” He added, “I’m still going to continue to fight for those people inside of the building.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James offered a response. She slammed Amazon’s actions, calling the for National Labor Relations Board to get involved:
“It is disgraceful that Amazon would terminate an employee who bravely stood up to protect himself and his colleagues,” she said on the Attorney General website. “At the height of a global pandemic, Chris Smalls and his colleagues publicly protested the lack of precautions that Amazon was taking to protect them from COVID-19.”
In New York, the right to organize is codified into law, and any retaliatory action by management related thereto is strictly prohibited. At a time when so many New Yorkers are struggling and are deeply concerned about their safety. This action was also immoral and inhumane. The Office of the Attorney General is considering all legal options. I am calling on the National Labor Relations Board to investigate this incident.”