Judge orders Amazon to stop retaliations against organizers
NEW YORK — A federal judge has ordered Amazon to stop retaliating against employees engaged in workplace activism, issuing a mixed ruling that also hands a loss to the federal labor agency that sued the company earlier this year. The ruling was made in a court case brought to you by the National Labor Relations Board. This lawsuit sought to reinstate a fired employee who was involved with organizing a warehouse for Amazon on Staten Island.
In its lawsuit, the agency claimed that Amazon’s termination, Gerald Bryson (an ex-employee), was illegal and would have a chilling impact on organizing. It claimed that if Bryson was not reinstated to his position, workers would think that the agency would not be in a position to protect their federal labor rights.
A U.S. District Judge Diane Gujarati ruled that there was “reasonable cause to believe” that the e-commerce giant had fired Bryson. She issued a cease and desist order to the Seattle-based company directing it not to retaliate against employees who participated in workplace activism.
But Gujarati declined the agency’s request for Bryson to be reinstated. She found that there was no evidence from the NLRB that Bryson’s firing is having a significant effect on organizing efforts of employees or the Amazon Labor Union. This group was formed in connection with Bryson and helped to win the first ever labor win at an Amazon warehouse in the U.S. in March.
In her ruling, Gujarati also noted that Bryson was fired prior to the formation of the union, which is different from other cases in which there was a slowdown in organizing support after the firing of a union activist.
Bryson, who participated in a protest about working conditions in the early days of COVID -19 was fired in April 2020,. During a second protest, Bryson got into a fight with another employee. Amazon conducted its own investigation and found that Bryson had violated the company’s vulgar language policy. Amazon denies that the firing was related to organizing activities.
Shortly after Bryson was fired he filed a complaint to the NLRB. An administrative law judge ruled earlier this year that the company had conducted a “skewed” investigation into the dispute in order to blame Bryson. Amazon stated that it will appeal the NLRB’s decision in its own administrative process. Friday’s court decision was based on a separate federal case that was filed by the agency. The agency doesn’t have any enforcement powers.
Gujarati ordered Amazon to post English- and Spanish-language copies of the court order to the Staten Island facility where the union voted. She also directed that the company distribute electronic copies of the court order to employees and hold a mandatory meeting so that the order can be read aloud.
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