A judge has ruled that Amazon must rehire a former warehouse worker who was fired during the early stages of the pandemic.
It reported that the company “illegally” fired the employee who led a protest demanding that Amazon do more to protect employees from COVID-19.
Gerald Bryson, who worked at an Amazon warehouse in the New York City borough of Staten Island, has been involved in a labor dispute since June 2020.
When he filed an unfair labor practice complaint with The National Labor Relations Board, alleging Amazon retaliated against him.
Later that year, the NLRB determined that Bryson’s complaint that Amazon illegally fired him for workplace organizing was justified.
Amazon refused to accept the findings, so the federal board filed a formal complaint against it, triggering a lengthy administrative court process.
On Monday, April 18, administrative law judge Benjamin Green ruled that Amazon must reinstate Bryson and compensate him for lost wages and benefits as a result of his “discriminatory discharge.”
Bryson first took part in a March 2020 protest over working conditions led by Chris Smalls, another warehouse employee fired by Amazon and now leading the Amazon Labor Union, a nascent group that won a union election earlier this month at the Amazon facility where both men worked.
After Smalls was fired, Bryson led another protest in April 2020 in front of the warehouse.
While off the job during the protest, Bryson got into an argument with one more worker.
He was later fired for violating Amazon’s vulgar-language policy.
Bryson testified that he told an Amazon manager who spoke with him about the incident about the remark.
The manager has denied Bryson made a reference to a racial comment.
But the judge sided with Bryson’s account, saying it was unlikely that he would “fail to convey such a prominent remark to which he had a strong reaction.”
The judge said in his decision that Amazon rushed to judgment and pursued a “skewed investigation” into the argument designed to blame only Bryson for that incident, adding the company wanted to discharge Bryson for his “protected concerted activity instead of fairly evaluating” what happened.
The NLRB also pushed for Bryson’s reinstatement in a federal lawsuit filed last month, citing a provision of the National Labor Relations Act that allows it to seek temporary relief in federal court while an administrative law case is being resolved.
Amazon has raised the case as one of its challenges to the Staten Island election results, accusing the agency of tainting the vote by pursuing Bryson’s reinstatement in the run-up to the election.