PHEW Whistleblower Complaint against Amazon

Former Amazon warehouse worker Linda Rodriguez filed a complaint against Amazon with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) alleging that the company fired her in 2020 because she repeatedly raised concerns about Amazon policies and practices that were putting warehouse workers at Amazon’s DEN3 facility in Thornton, Colorado at risk from the spread of COVID-19. In particular, Ms. Rodriguez alleges she was fired for complaining about Amazon’s sloppy contract tracing and the company’s failure to provide important workplace health and safety information to Spanish-speaking workers in Spanish.

“It seemed like Amazon just wanted to pressure people to keep coming to work during the pandemic, even though we were terrified, and so they didn’t tell us whether we’d been exposed and didn’t even explain to my Spanish-speaking co-workers in a language they could understand that they shouldn’t come to work if they were sick,” said Complainant Linda Rodriguez.

The complaint alleges that Amazon violated Colorado’s Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Act (“PHEW Act”), which was enacted during the summer of 2020 to recognize workers’ rights to speak out publicly about workplace safety and health concerns related to a public health emergency like COVID-19. The law requires workers to file a formal administrative complaint with the CDLE as a prerequisite to filing a suit in court. A copy of the complaint is available below. Ms. Rodriguez is represented in the case by Towards Justice, a Denver-based non-profit legal organization, and Swain Law LLC.

Case Documents:

Complaint

Press Release

Press:

Colorado Public Radio: Amazon Didn’t Provide COVID-19 Information In Spanish, Ex-Thornton Employee Alleges

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PHEW Whistleblower Complaint against Denver Health

Heroic healthcare workers on the front line of a pandemic working in near-capacity ICUs have taken a stand and filed Colorado’s first whistleblower or qui tam complaint against Denver Health, alleging that the medical center has a policy of preventing workers from raising concerns about COVID-19 safety and systemic racism.

Under Colorado’s new Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Law it is illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who speak out about public health emergencies. Workers at Denver Health allege that their employer systematically squelches workplace speech when they raise concerns about workplace safety and health issues related to COVID-19 and systemic racism—both of which have been declared public health crises by Colorado and the City of Denver. 

Towards Justice supports Denver Health Workers United—a union of workers employed by Denver Health—in filing the first “qui tam” complaint under the Colorado Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Law

Case Documents:

Complaint

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Workers Seek Order Forcing OSHA to Intervene to Protect Them from COVID-19: Jane Does I, II, III, et al v. Eugene Scalia, in his official capacity as United States Secretary of Labor

Workers at the Maid-Rite Specialty Foods facility and Friends of Farmworkers, Inc. d/b/a Justice at Work, in its capacity as the workers’ authorized employee representative, allege that Maid-Rite’s practices endanger their safety on a daily basis. These practices include configuring the production line in such a way that workers cannot social distance, failing to provide cloth face coverings, failing to provide adequate hand-washing opportunities, creating incentives for workers to attend work sick, and rotating workers from other facilities in a way that increases the risk of spreading the virus.

(more…)

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Complaint Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Food Chain Workers Alliance, et al v. Tyson Foods, Inc., et al

Towards Justice along with legal partners Public Justice and Nichols Kaster filed a Title VI complaint against meat processing corporations for their alleged racially discriminatory practices. This complaint asks the Office of Civil Rights to investigate disparate impact & treatment of Black, Latino and Asian meat processing workers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. (more…)

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Protecting Supply Chain Workers during COVID-19: Derrick Palmer, et al. v. Amazon.com, Inc., et al

Our clients allege that Amazon’s operations at its JFK8 fulfillment center in Staten Island, NY are inconsistent with state law and public health guidance. We allege that Amazon’s conduct has contributed to the spread of COVID-19 among workers at the plant and in their communities. Dozens of workers have already gotten sick and at least one has died. The plaintiffs seek an injunction to force Amazon to comply with public health guidance. (more…)

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Protecting Supply Chain Workers during COVID-19: Rural Community Workers Alliance, et al v. Smithfield Foods, Inc., et al

Working on a supply chain is an essential task during this pandemic.It is also essential that corporations engaged in the supply chain production take basic steps to protect their workers from the spread of COVID-19. Some employers are doing things right. Unfortunately, many workers in supply chain work —farmworkers, slaughterhouse workers, warehouse workers, grocery workers, delivery drivers, restaurant workers, and many others—continue to be required to report to work under conditions that directly conflict with CDC guidance and state and local public health orders. These conditions include failing to restructure the workplace to allow for social distancing at work, failing to encourage sick leave for workers who fall ill, and failing to provide protective equipment or sufficient hand-washing opportunities.

(more…)

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In The Courtroom

Our litigators help workers advance legal claims that address systemic injustice. We use antitrust, anti-slavery, fraud, wage-and-hour, and common-law challenges to address the wide variety of practices that nickel-and-dime low-wage workers out of their hard-earned wages. We have represented a hundred thousand childcare workers alleging wage suppression, tens of thousands of immigrant detainees alleging forced labor, and hundreds of construction workers, shepherds, manicurists, janitors, and kitchen hood cleaners. We are leaders in challenging anti-competitive practices that reduce worker bargaining power and support marginalized people who challenge structural impediments to their advancement.

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