In 1935, Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), making clear that it is the policy of the United States to encourage collective bargaining by protecting workers’ full freedom of association. The NLRA protects workplace democracy by providing employees at private-sector workplaces the fundamental right to seek better working conditions and designation of representation without fear of retaliation. Also cited NLRA or the Act; 29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169.
“Amazon settles unfair labor claims with two fired tech workers”
The Washington Post, reported on September 29, 2021, that two Amazon workers were fired in April, 2020 for speaking out against Amazon’s climate policies and Amazon’s unsafe working conditions. Amazon was set to face Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa in a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) over claims that Amazon violated labor laws by retaliating against the workers for their criticism, even though it was a protected activity under the NLRA, but settled the case with the women in advance of the hearing.
Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa were actively speaking out on the climate issues and the unsafe working conditions during their employment with Amazon.
After receiving a warning advising them to stop speaking out or they would be fired, the women continued to speak out on the issues and were ultimately terminated.
Cunningham states that the absence of safe and sanitary conditions in the warehouses “puts them and the public at risk.” After tweeting about how the warehouse workers “struggle to get consistent, sufficient protections and procedures from our employer” Costa was also fired from Amazon. Amazon says that they did not fire the two women for speaking about working conditions but for breaking the internal policy. This termination likely would cause other employees to be cautious about speaking out about potential issues with Amazon.
Instead of proceeding before the NLRB, Amazon settled with Cunningham and Costa. The Washington Post further stated that by settling this case, Amazon avoided exposing the conflicted relationships Amazon has with a multitude of their employees.
However, now employees may feel empowered and more comfortable in exposing the harmful side of their working conditions with Amazon to see if their cases may reach the same outcome.
The NLRA protects workers who are speaking out even when they comment about practices that affect other employees in the company. And, had Cunningham and Costa prevailed before the NLRB, a ruling could have forced Amazon to pay back wages and reinstate them. However, the hearing never occurred and a settlement was entered between the terminated employees and Amazon.
Amazon workplace safety issues mentioned by employees – The terminated women wrote:
“This is a win for protecting workers rights, and shows that we were right to stand up for each other, for justice, and for our world,” the women wrote. “Amazon will be required to pay us lost wages and post a notice to all of its tech and warehouse workers nationwide that Amazon can’t fire workers for organizing and exercising their rights.”
Posting on Twitter, Cunningham and Costa stated they were “thrilled” to have settled the case with Amazon, although they did not disclose any further information on the matter. Deciding on a non-board settlement, it was agreed to not include the National Labor Relations Board into the agreement, thus keeping it private and thus the reason the former Amazon employees could not divulge any further information relative to their settlement with Amazon.
If you feel you are unable to voice your concerns about your working conditions at Amazon, contact us.
Our Amazon Employment Law Division can assist you in three ways:
(1) Do It Yourself: Knowledge & Forms;
(2) Done With You: Knowledge, Forms and Attorney Help Editing the Documents; and
(3) Done For You: We meet with you and draft the documents for you. We may also, in some cases, offer to fully represent the client.