Judge to Amazon: Hire Back Fired Worker

Judge expresses skepticism about Amazon's true motives in Staten Island case
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 19, 2022 3:23 PM CDT
Judge Orders Amazon to Reinstate Fired Worker
Gerald Bryson, left, joins workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island who were protesting conditions on March 30, 2020, in New York.   (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

(Newser) – A judge has ruled Amazon must reinstate a former warehouse employee who was fired in 2020, saying the company “unlawfully” terminated the worker who led a protest calling for Amazon to do more to protect employees against COVID-19, per the AP. In June 2020, and Gerald Bryson filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming Amazon retaliated against him. The NLRB later found that Amazon illegally fired him for workplace organizing. Amazon didn’t accept the findings, and the federal board filed a formal complaint against the company, triggering a lengthy administrative court process.

On Monday, judge Benjamin Green said Amazon must offer Bryson his job back, as well as lost wages and benefits resulting from his “discriminatory discharge." Amazon says it will appeal. Bryson’s firing in Staten Island occurred during a period of protests and organizing efforts in early 2020. While off the job during one protest, Bryson got into a dispute with a female colleague and was later fired for violating Amazon's vulgar-language policy. In court filings, the NLRB said evidence shows the woman began the exchange and twice tried to provoke a physical altercation. The woman also told Bryson, who is Black, to “go back to the Bronx,” which the judge said Bryson could construe as “racial" since there was no other reason to assume he is from the Bronx.

The judge said Amazon rushed to judgment and pursued a “skewed investigation" into the argument, adding the company wanted to discharge Bryson for his “protected concerted activity instead of fairly evaluating" what happened. He said witness accounts of the incident submitted by the company were coincidently “one-sided.” Last month, the NLRB pushed for Bryson’s reinstatement in a separate federal suit, using a law that allows it to seek temporary relief in while a case is in process. Amazon has used that case as one of its objections over the Staten Island union election results, accusing the agency of tainting the vote by pursuing Bryson's reinstatement in the lead-up to the election. (Read more Amazon stories.)

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