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Amazon faces more COVID-related lawsuits

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Several Amazon employees are suing the online retailer because, they allege, Amazon promotes unsafe working conditions and retaliates against those who speak out.

One employee also alleges she caught the virus while working in the company warehouse, and that her cousin subsequently died after contracting the disease from her.

“Barbara Chandler said she tested positive for COVID-19 in March and later saw several household members become sick, including a cousin who died on April 7,” reports Reuters.

The lawsuit was filed in New York on behalf of three Amazon employees in Staten Island and their families.

It is one amongst many efforts by the legal community to shakedown Amazon and other businesses over COVID.   

New York’s Andrew Cuomo extended liability protection to health professionals, hospitals and medical facilities to protect against COVID lawsuits. Now some are saying that COVID lawsuit relief should be extended to other industries as well.

“A coalition of businesses recently wrote to state government urging the extension of liability protections to businesses,” says Newsday. “Businesses that act in good faith should not face COVID-19 liability suits during the remainder of the pandemic.”

The lawsuit, says the lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Staten Island suit, is not seeking money damages, but instead “an injunction requiring that Amazon comply with worker safety and public nuisance laws, and not punish employees who develop COVID-19 symptoms or are quarantined.”

It’s not clear if the plaintiffs could seek monetary damages at a later time.

Amazon had over 798,000 full- and part-time employees by the end of 2019. The COVID crisis inflated that number significantly as consumers have turned to online shopping during the shutdown.  

Amazon said that it added 175,000 workers during the first quarter.

Against that is a scheduled $800 million that the company says it is spending in the first half of the year on COVID safety measures, including masks, cleaning and fever checks.

Law firms, however, have already targeted Amazon and its $280 billion revenue stream in a California class-action suit alleging price gouging by the company during the COVID crisis.   

“Like every seller, Amazon has an obligation under California law to ensure that its pricing does not exploit consumers facing emergency conditions,” the lawsuit reads. “Amazon has not abided by that obligation. In fact, as the COVID-19 crisis has escalated, so too have Amazon’s prices for the goods consumers require to remain healthy, protected and nourished.”

One firm has gone so far as to advertise online as a specialist in bringing employment lawsuits against Amazon.

“If you are a current or former Amazon employee who suffered from workplace retaliation, overtime violations, workplace discrimination, or another unfair or undue circumstance, the labor and employment attorneys at Morgan & Morgan are here to help,” says the ad.

Libertarian researcher, Will Wilkinson, VP at the Niskaken Center, says of the newest lawsuit: “This is a good test of claims that businesses are threatened by Covid liability lawsuits. I will be surprised if the plaintiff wins by showing she got the virus at Amazon and her cousin got it from her, but won’t be surprised if Amazon nevertheless improves worker safety measures.”

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