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New York Alleges Amazon Discriminates Against Pregnant and Disabled Workers

The New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR) filed an administrative complaint against Amazon, asserting the company discriminated against pregnant and disabled workers. The complaint alleges Amazon denied employees reasonable accommodations and forced them to take unpaid leave. Governor Kathy Hochul made the announcement.

According to the NYSDHR, Amazon employs 39,000+ workers over almost two dozen worksites in the state. The company uses internal consultants to evaluate employee accommodation requests. However, onsite managers have the authority to override the recommendations, leading to denials of some requests. New York law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to pregnant and disabled workers. In its complaint, the NYSDHR identifies three distinct requests from pregnant or disabled workers that it says Amazon rejected. On one occasion, Amazon allegedly required a pregnant employee to continue lifting heavy packages and then put her on unpaid leave after she was injured. In addition, the complaint asserts Amazon’s policy forces employees with disabilities to take unpaid leave even when a consultant finds reasonable accommodations that allow employees to perform the essential functions of positions without an undue burden. The complaint seeks to have Amazon stop its discriminatory conduct and pay fines and penalties. In 2021, six Democratic senators called on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate Amazon’s “systemic” failure to accommodate pregnant warehouse workers.

An Amazon spokesperson expressed surprise at the complaint because Amazon has been working with the state on these issues. The company asserts it wants all employees to feel “safe and supported” and has programs in place to make sure that happens. They also said the company “works diligently to offer the best available options to accommodate individual situations.”