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Amazon must reinstate fired warehouse workers, judge rules

A judge has ruled Amazon must reinstate a former warehouse worker who was fired in the early days of the pandemic, saying the company had “unlawfully” terminated its employees. Employees led a protest calling for Amazon to do more to protect employees against COVID-19.

The dispute involving Gerald Bryson, who worked at an Amazon warehouse in the Staten borough of New York City, has dragged on since June 2020, when Bryson filed an unfair labor practice complaint with The National Bureau of Labor Relations, alleging that Amazon retaliated against him.

Later that year, the NLRB said it found benefit in Bryson’s complaint that Amazon had unlawfully fired him for workplace organization. Amazon did not accept the findings, and the federal panel filed a formal complaint against the company, resulting in a lengthy administrative court process.

On Monday, administrative law judge Benjamin Green said Amazon must give Bryson his job back, as well as the wages and benefits lost as a result of his “discriminatory dismissal” behavior. .

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bryson first took part in a March 2020 protest about working conditions led by Chris Smalls, another warehouse worker who was fired by the online retail giant and is heading the Labor Union. Amazon, the newly formed group won a union election earlier this month at the Amazon facility where both men worked.

After Smalls was fired, Bryson led another protest in April 2020 in front of the warehouse. While on leave during the protest, Bryson got into a dispute with another worker. He was later fired for violating Amazon’s vulgar language policy.

Court records give reasons for a fight between Bryson and a female employee. An audio recording of their dispute detailed by the NLRB shows both Bryson and the woman using profanities during a heated exchange that lasted several minutes. The company’s accounts show the woman initiated the exchange, and twice attempted to provoke Bryson into having a physical exchange with her, which he failed to do. The woman was given a “first warning.”

The woman also told Bryson, being Black, to “go back to the Bronx,” which the judge said Bryson might consider Bryson a “race” because “because he’s African-American and can book the question of why, aside from his race, someone would assume he’s from the Bronx. “

Bryson testified that he notified an Amazon manager who spoke to him about the incident about the comment. The manager declined Bryson to make a comment about race. But the judge sided with Bryson’s account, saying it was unlikely that he would “not convey a remark so prominent that he has had a strong response.”

In his decision, the judge said Amazon was hasty in judgment and pursued a “skewing investigation” with arguments designed to blame only Bryson for that incident, adding that the company wanted to save money. fired Bryson for “protected concerted action rather than a fair assessment” of what happened.

In investigating the change, Greene said Amazon “doesn’t want to get information from someone who is protesting against Bryson even though that person is likely in the best position to explain what happened.”

Instead, he said many of the eyewitness accounts of the incident filed by the company were “one-sided” random, adding that he found it inconceivable that statements had been made “unless the that account is collected from them.”

The NLRB also pushed for Bryson’s reinstatement in a federal lawsuit filed last month, using a provision of the National Labor Relations Act that allows it to seek temporary relief at federal court while a case is proceeding according to the administrative law process. Amazon used the case as one of its objections to the Staten Island election results, accusing the agency of corrupting the vote by pursuing Bryson’s reinstatement before the election.

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