Amazon v NY v Amazon: Let the COVID-19 Safety Lawsuits Begin!

New York investigators started snooping around two Amazon facilities after reports of a spike in COVID-19 cases and the firing of an employee who led a protest at the Staten Island facility over worker safety. Amazon sued NY first, claiming it was a federal issue and NY should fuggetaboutit.  New York would not be “bullied” (their word) and sued Amazon this week. New York claims Amazon did not undertake proper COVID-19 protocols in spite of over 250 cases in one facility, and by firing a worker who led a protest has silenced other employees from raising health and safety concerns. More details can be found here.

Who will win? The lawyers of course but the cases could resolve a thorny issue: is COVID-19 workplace safety controlled by federal or state authorities? It is clear that OSHA is the federal authority that sets standards for workplace safety. As readers of this blog know, OSHA has been a major player during the pandemic on coronavirus standards. But this pandemic is so widespread and lengthy that states have had to play a role too–and are unlikely to give up their enforcement power without a fight.

We are starting to see more COVID-19 safety-related lawsuits. Where they end up–federal or state court–and which law will apply–matters.  In the meantime, we can see how Goliath versus Goliath plays out and keep you posted.

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