(Reuters) – The New York State Division of Human Rights has filed a complaint against Amazon.com Inc., accusing the online retailer of discriminating against pregnant and disabled workers at its workplaces, Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Wednesday.
Amazon was also accused of having policies that require workers to take unpaid leave, even if they are able to work, instead of providing affordable housing.
New York blamed Amazon for giving workplace managers the power to ignore recommendations from internal “housing consultants” that workers be given changed schedules or responsibilities.
State law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant and disabled workers who ask. It also treats pregnancy-related medical conditions as disabilities.
“My administration will hold any employer accountable, no matter how large or small, if they do not treat their workers with the dignity and respect they deserve,”; Governor Hochul said in a statement.
Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The complaint came as Seattle-based Amazon is facing increasing criticism over its treatment of workers, including some who have pushed for trade unionism.
Amazon had 1.61 million employees at the end of the year and is the largest private employer in the United States apart from Walmart Inc. It operates 23 workplaces with more than 39,000 employees in New York.
In September last year, six Democratic senators, including New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, called on the US Commission for Equal Opportunities to investigate Amazon’s alleged “systemic” failure to receive pregnant warehouse workers.
Wednesday’s complaint described how Amazon allegedly forced a pregnant worker to continue lifting packages over 25 pounds and put her on indefinite unpaid leave after she was injured.
It also said that Amazon changed the recommendations to allow two disabled workers to change their work schedules, after their managers opposed the changes.
Complaints from the Department of Human Rights are confidential.
The Amazon complaint seeks unspecified civil fines and penalties, improved training and new policies that guide the review of requests for reasonable adjustments.
Violations can result in penalties of up to $ 50,000 or $ 100,000 for willful misconduct.
Amazon’s profit was $ 33.4 billion in 2021.
The company has also been the subject of litigation by state prosecutor Letitia James.
On May 10, a state appellate court dismissed her lawsuit, which accused Amazon of failing to protect workers at two New York City facilities against covid-19 and illegally retaliate against two employees who protested the situation.