The New York State Division of Human Rights filed a complaint against Amazon, saying that the company discriminated against pregnant workers and workers with disabilities by refusing to provide the appropriate accommodations.
According to a May 18 news release from the office of Governor Kathy Hochul, it’s against state law to deny reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities or pregnant workers. Those accommodations can include modifying the tasks required of the job so employees can complete them, the release said.
Amazon operates 23 worksites in New York and employs over 39,000 workers across the state, the release said. The worksites have “accommodation consultants” who determine what the appropriate accommodations for workers should be, but those recommendations can be overridden by worksite managers, the complaint said, according to the release.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News.
The agency also accused Amazon of requiring employees with disabilities to take unpaid medical leave, even in circumstances in which the accommodation consultant made recommendations that would allow those employees to complete their jobs, according to the release.
“The policy or practice of forcing employees to take an unpaid medical leave of absence diminishes the terms and conditions of employment for employees with disabilities and is against the Human Rights Law,” the release said.
In one instance, according to the complaint, a pregnant worker requested accommodations to avoid lifting packages heavier than 25 pounds. Although the accommodation was approved, the worksite manager didn’t follow it, and the employee continued lifting heavy packages, the release said.
The employee was injured on the job, causing them to require additional accommodations, but Amazon denied the request and required the worker to take indefinite unpaid leave, the release said.
In another instance outlined by the complaint, a worker with a condition that “necessitated a specific sleep schedule” was denied a modified work schedule, even though they had medical documentation supporting the request, the release said.
Before making the request, the worker had been swapping shifts with another worker to accommodate their schedule with no objection from Amazon managers. After the request to modify the worker’s schedule was denied, the worksite’s accommodation consultant withdrew their recommendation and said the worker did not have a qualifying condition, the release said.
The complaint seeks a requirement that Amazon “cease its discriminatory conduct, adopt non-discriminatory policies and practices regarding the review of requests for reasonable accommodations, train its employees on the provisions of the Human Rights Law, and pay civil fines and penalties to the State of New York,” the release said.