Press Release: Amazon Worker alleges company violated Colorado’s Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Act
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DENVER, May 7, 2021 – Former Amazon warehouse worker Linda Rodriguez filed a complaint against Amazon today 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 here. Ms. Rodriguez is represented in the case by Towards Justice, a Denver-based non-profit legal organization, and Swain Law LLC.
Amazon has reaped enormous profits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, Amazon’s annual revenue increased 38% to $386 billion, an increase of over $100 billion versus the prior year. Yet, during the pandemic more than 20,000 Amazon workers have contracted COVID-19, and there have been numerous allegations that Amazon’s workplace practices put workers at risk, including a lawsuit brought by New York’s Attorney General. Workers across the country have also alleged that Amazon has persistently sought to squelch workers’ efforts to exert power and raise their voice about the challenges they face every day in Amazon’s warehouses. The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that Amazon illegally retaliated against workers engaged in COVID-19-related protests against the company. Colorado’s PHEW Act provides a remedy against retaliation that is not available in other states.
“Amazon may be one of the richest and most powerful companies in the world. It made a lot of that money during the pandemic when workers like me were working 60-hour weeks doing brutal and dangerous work inside its warehouses. I saw that Amazon was scared of me speaking out for myself and my co-workers. It intimidated me and ultimately fired me when I raised my voice, but I’m not backing down. I’m going to keep speaking out about this company, no matter how powerful and rich they are. And I hope other workers hear me,” said Rodriguez.
“The purpose of Colorado’s PHEW Act is to protect workers’ right to raise their voice about workplace safety issues. Colorado recognized that worker voice is essential to protecting workers and the public health. We are proud to represent Ms. Rodriguez in her fight to hold Amazon accountable,” said David Seligman, Executive Director of Towards Justice.
“There is powerful evidence in this case that Amazon retaliated against Ms. Rodriguez because it wanted to silence her from continuing to speak out about COVID-19 problems in the DEN3 warehouse. That is precisely the type of conduct that the PHEW Act prohibits,” said Hunter Swain from Swain Law LLC.