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Amazon Wrongly Fired New York Warehouse Worker, NLRB Judge Rules

April 19, 2022, 4:28 PM

Amazon.com Inc. violated federal labor law by firing a worker for pressuring the company to improve Covid-19 safety protocols at its Staten Island warehouse, a National Labor Relations Board judge ruled.

The online retail giant must offer Gerald Bryson reinstatement to his former job and pay him for loss of income following his April 2020 termination, Administrative Law Judge Benjamin Green said in his Monday decision.

The ruling comes shortly after Amazon levied allegations that the NLRB wrongly put its thumb down in favor of an upstart labor union that won a historic victory at the same Staten Island warehouse. In its bid to overturn that union win, the company accused the agency of breaking its own rules in such a way that it implied a government endorsement of the Amazon Labor Union.

The unlawful termination case against Amazon dates back to events from the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

NLRB prosecutors in the agency’s Brooklyn office alleged that Amazon disciplined and fired Bryson because of his workplace activism in March and April 2020. Bryson became the “public face” of worker organizing to boost Covid-19 safety measures, agency lawyers said.

Amazon asserted that it fired Bryson for verbally attacking a co-worker during a protest in front of the warehouse.

‘Honest’ Belief Absent

But Amazon failed “to prove it had an honest, good-faith belief that Bryson engaged in serious misconduct warranting discharge,” Green wrote in his Monday ruling.

Even if the company believed Bryson deserved to be fired for his actions, the evidence shows he didn’t do anything to merit termination, the judge added.

Amazon plans to appeal Green’s ruling to the federal labor board, company spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in a statement.

Separately from the proceedings at the agency, NLRB prosecutors have petitioned a federal court to order Amazon to reinstate Bryson.

NLRB spokeswoman Kayla Blado declined to comment Tuesday. Bryson’s lawyer, Frank Kearl of Make the Road New York, didn’t immediately respond to telephone and email requests for comment.

The case is Amazon.com Servs. LLC, N.L.R.B. A.L.J., Case No. 29-CA-261755, 4/18/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Iafolla in Washington at riafolla@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Laura D. Francis at lfrancis@bloomberglaw.com; Melissa B. Robinson at mrobinson@bloomberglaw.com