Judge orders Amazon to stop retaliating against organizers

A federal judge has ordered Amazon not to retaliate against employees who volunteer in the workplace, issuing a mixed ruling that also spells a loss for the federal employment agency, which sued the company earlier this year.

The ruling came amid a lawsuit by the National Labor Relations Board that sued Amazon in March, demanding the reinstatement of a fired employee who helped organize a company warehouse on Staten Island, New York.

In its lawsuit, the agency argued that Amazon’s termination of former employee Gerald Bryson was unlawful and would have a chilling effect on organizing. It said that not reinstating Bryson in his role would lead workers to believe the agency was unable to protect their labor rights under federal law.

On Friday, US District Judge Diane Gujarati ruled that there was “reasonable reason” to believe the e-commerce giant committed an unfair labor practice by firing Bryson. She issued a cease and desist order directing the Seattle-based company not to retaliate against employees involved in workplace activities.

But Gujarati denied the agency’s request to reinstate Bryson. She noted that the NLRB presented no evidence that Bryson’s termination had a significant impact on the organizing efforts of employees or the Amazon Labor Union, the burgeoning group linked to Bryson that ultimately won the first-ever labor victory at an Amazon warehouse in of the USA scored USA in March.

In her ruling, Gujarati also noted that Bryson was fired before the union was formed, distinguishing it from other cases that showed a slowdown in organizational support following the firing of a union activist.

Bryson was fired in April 2020, weeks after attending a protest over working conditions in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. During a second protest rally, he got into an argument with another employee while he was away. Amazon has itself investigated the dispute, citing a violation of the company’s profanity policy for the termination of Bryson. The company denies that the dismissal was related to organizational activities.

Shortly after Bryson was fired, he filed a complaint with the NLRB. An administrative justice judge earlier this year concluded that the company conducted a “biased investigation” into the dispute to blame Bryson. Amazon has announced that it will appeal this judgment in the NLRB’s own administrative proceedings. Friday’s court ruling comes from a separate federal case filed by the agency, which has no enforcement powers.

On Friday, Gujarati ordered Amazon to release English and Spanish copies of the court order at the Staten Island facility that voted to organize. She also ordered the company to distribute electronic copies to employees and hold a mandatory meeting where the order can be read aloud.

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