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Labor Board Finds Amazon Illegally Fired Employees; To File Complaint If Not Settled

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The National Labor Relations Board or NLRB has found that Amazon illegally fired two of its corporate employees last year for voicing against the company's decisions on climate action as well as warehouse conditions during the pandemic, reports said.

The labor board said it would issue a complaint for unfair labor practices in the next few weeks if the case is not settled with the fired tech workers. As per reports, a trial date would be scheduled in four to six months.

The e-commerce giant had fired employees Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, in April 2020 for publicly criticizing conditions at its warehouses as unsafe during the coronavirus pandemic. Cunningham and Costa, both worked as user experience designers for Amazon, were warned earlier for criticizing the company's climate policies.

The NLRB's Seattle office, which is investigating the case, now has found merit in the employees' unfair labor practices claims against the company. According to the agency, Amazon may have violated the National Labor Relations Act that bars it from interfering with employee rights to engage in concerted activities.

Following the labor board finding, CNN quoted Cunningham as saying, "It is a moral victory and it feels incredible to be not only on the right side of history but the right side of the law. Amazon tried to silence workers and it hasn't worked. We're actually stronger than ever. Organizing continues to grow at Amazon."

The fired employees are founding members of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice that was originally formed to advocate on climate issues.

Following Cunningham and Costa's firing last year, Amazon engineer and vice president Tim Bray also had resigned from the firm, who then stated that he quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Amazon reportedly defended its terminations of the employees. The company's spokesperson stated that the terminations were not for talking publicly about working conditions, safety or sustainability but for repeatedly violating internal policies. The company said it supports every employee's right to criticize their employer's working conditions but that does not come with blanket immunity against its internal policies, all of which are lawful.

In recent times, Amazon has been going through various employee-related legal issues. In November last year, the labor board issued a complaint against Amazon for the illegal termination of a warehouse worker in Pennsylvania. At least 37 retaliation charges were filed to the agency since February 2020 against Amazon.

Recently, a Black Amazon.com Inc. manager filed a lawsuit against the company alleging gender and racial discrimination, sexual harassment, as well as violations of the Equal Pay Act.

In mid February, the New York State sued Amazon for allegedly violating labor laws by not providing adequate safety protection for its frontline workers in New York City during the coronavirus pandemic.

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