NY State Accuses Amazon of Discrimination Against Pregnant and Disabled Workers

The state's Division of Human Rights files a formal complaint against the e-tailing giant.

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The New York State Division of Human Rights filed a formal complaint against Amazon on Wednesday, alleging that the e-commerce giant engages in workplace discrimination against pregnant and disabled employees. The agency accused Amazon of denying pregnant workers and employees with disabilities reasonable working accommodations and instead making them take unpaid leaves of absence, according to a release from the office of New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

State law stipulates that employers must comply with requests for reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities or pregnancy-related conditions. 

Amazon, which employs roughly 40,000 workers throughout the state, has its own accommodation consultants, who assess each request and provide action plans, including modification of duties. The agency alleges that worksite managers can override the consultants' decisions and that this has led to the denial of reasonable accommodations. 

The complaint, according to the release, asserts that even when an accommodation consultant finds a reasonable arrangement that would let employees perform their duties without causing undue burden, Amazon's policy forces pregnant employees or those with disabilities to take an unpaid leave of absence. 

Amazon said it has programs in place to support its employees.

"Ensuring all our employees, including those with disabilities and expectant mothers, feel safe and supported is extremely important to Amazon and we have numerous programs to ensure that's the case," said spokeswoman Kelly Nantel in an emailed statement on Wednesday. "While we don't always get it right with a workforce of over 1.6 million people, we work diligently to offer the best available options to accommodate individual situations."

Nantel added that Amazon hasn't yet received the complaint and couldn't comment further. 

The complaint follows lawsuits filed against Amazon over workplace conditions. This month, an appeals court judge dismissed a suit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, which alleged Amazon failed to provide adequate protection for workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon is also facing litigation following the collapse of one its Illinois warehouses from a tornado.

A unit of the Division of Human Rights is investigating the discrimination complaint and will make its findings related to Amazon public once the process is complete. Depending on the outcome, Amazon could face fines and civil penalties.