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Amazon loses bid to stop New York from probing COVID-19 standards

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A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed Amazon.com Inc’s lawsuit to block New York’s attorney general from investigating the online retailer’s ability to protect warehouse workers from COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn rejected Amazon’s claim that Attorney General Letitia James acted in bad faith by trying to police its pandemic response, and stop its alleged retaliation against workers who were unhappy the company wasn’t doing more.

“The state has a legitimate interest in ensuring that employers are complying with state labor laws, are enforcing important health safety measures, and are sanctioned for illegal conduct that occurs within the state,” Cogan wrote.

Amazon has argued that federal health and labor laws preempted James’ oversight.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement: “We’re disappointed with today’s procedural ruling, which the court made clear does not mean the Attorney General’s underlying claims have merit.” Amazon cared deeply about the health and safety of its employees, and was proud of its response to the pandemic, she added.

Morgan Rubin, a spokeswoman for James, said in an email: “We applaud this decision and look forward to continuing our litigation against Amazon in state court and protecting our workers.” James sued Amazon in February over its treatment of thousands of workers at a Staten Island fulfillment center and a Queens distribution center. She has accused Amazon of prioritizing profits over safety, and improperly disciplining two employees who protested working conditions, one of whom was fired.

James is seeking a court-appointed safety monitor, while Amazon is seeking to dismiss her case, which is pending in a state court in Manhattan.

The seven-day average COVID-19 positivity test rate on Monday was 3.68% in Staten Island and 2.61% in Queens. The New York City average was 2.6%.

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