Attorney General Tong Joins Coalition Defending States' Authority to Protect Workers from Retaliation
Attorneys general submit amicus brief in New York lawsuit alleging Amazon retaliated against workers(Hartford, CT) -- Attorney General William Tong joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general filing an amicus brief defending states’ authority to protect workers from retaliation.
A lawsuit filed in 2021 by New York Attorney General Letitia James alleged that Amazon failed to take adequate health and safety precautions for workers at its New York facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic and that the company unlawfully disciplined employees for protesting unsafe working conditions. New York brought retaliation claims against Amazon for firing one worker and disciplining another after they complained about the lack of health measures at an Amazon facility.
In May, a New York state appellate court dismissed James’ lawsuit. The court ruled that, because the disciplined employees had participated in protests that the court viewed as linked to a unionization drive, New York’s retaliation claims were preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NRLA governs collective bargaining and other coordinated efforts by workers. The coalition has submitted an amicus brief supporting James’ request that the lower appellate court allow New York to appeal the decision to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.
“Amazon failed to protect workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and unlawfully retaliated against employees who protested those unsafe conditions. Amazon is attempting to escape accountability by invoking federal collective bargaining statutes that, if applied in this case, would substantially undermine critical state protections for workers. The Court of Appeals should hear this case and allow New York to proceed with its action to protect workers who report misconduct from termination and retaliation,” said Attorney General Tong.
While there are some anti-retaliation protections at the federal level, most states have established even more robust laws that protect employees who report workplace misconduct from termination or other adverse action. The coalition argues that the appellate court’s ruling significantly expands the scope of claims that are preempted by the NLRA, which would diminish the reach of state protections for workers. According to the brief, the ruling expands NLRA preemption to include claims with relatively weak ties to collective action by employees.
Joining Attorney General Tong in submitting the amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont. The brief was led by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.