Amazon warehouses are notoriously dangerous, unpleasant places to work. Now, the Department of Labor and Federal Prosecutors in New York are probing the company’s warehouses across the country as part of a civil investigation into alleged unsafe workplace conditions.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is “investigating workplace safety and related issues at Amazon warehouses, including injuries resulting from workplace hazards, worker rate requirements and the pace of work, and whether Amazon appropriately reported on-the-job injuries,” according to a statement on the district’s website.
On Monday morning, inspectors from the Labor Departments’ Occupational Safety and Health Administration began their first Amazon facility visits.
“[Yesterday] morning, the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration entered Amazon warehouses outside New York City, Chicago and Orlando to conduct workplace safety inspections in response to referrals received from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York concerning potential workplace hazards related, among other things, to Amazon’s required pace of work for its warehouse employees,” a spokesperson from the Southern District of New York office, Nicholas Biase, told ABC News in a statement.
“The Civil Division of the SDNY is investigating potential worker safety hazards at Amazon warehouses across the country, as well as possible fraudulent conduct designed to hide injuries from OSHA and others,” Biase further said. The office did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
“We’ll of course cooperate with OSHA in their investigation, and we believe it will ultimately show that these concerns are unfounded,” said Amazon spokesperson, Kelly Nantel, in an emailed statement to Gizmodo.
In another emailed statement, a Department of Labor spokesperson told Gizmodo:
OSHA received referrals from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York regarding allegations of safety and health violations at several Amazon facilities. We routinely receive referrals from various federal agencies, law enforcement, advocacy groups and others. Acting on the referrals, OSHA has opened inspections at Amazon workplaces in New York, Illinois, and Florida. Because these are active investigations, we are unable to provide more information at this time.
As part of the ongoing investigation, the Southern District of New York is collecting reports from current and former warehouse workers, and others with relevant knowledge. Those who have information about Amazon safety issues are encouraged by the office to share that info on the Justice Department’s website.
Amazon warehouses, or “fulfillment centers” as the company calls them, have been the center of workplace investigations and legal battles before. In March, a probe by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries found that the company was “knowingly putting workers at risk of injury,” in a warehouse in Kent, Washington. The finding resulted in a $60,000 fine (not much, for the U.S.’s largest online retailer.) Back in 2021, New York’s Attorney General sued Amazon for disregarding covid-19 safety policies.
Independent from the multi-state probe, OSHA is also reportedly investigating a worker death at the company’s EWR9 warehouse in Carteret, NJ that occurred last week during the company’s two-day Prime Day sale event, according to a series of tweets from Huffington Post labor reporter Dave Jamieson.
“We’re deeply saddened by the passing of one of our colleagues and offer our condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time. We’ve contact his family to offer support and will provide counseling resources to employees needing additional care,” said Amazon spokesperson, Sam Stephenson, in response to Jamieson’s request for comment. The report of a worker death, and Amazon’s response was also confirmed in an article from the New York Post.
Update 7/19/2022, 3:59 p.m. ET: This post has been updated with additional comment from Amazon.
Update 7/19/2022, 12:35 p.m. ET: This post has been updated with additional reporting from the Huffington Post’s Dave Jamieson and the New York Post.
Update 7/19/2022, 12:12 p.m. ET: This post has been updated with additional comment from the Department of Labor and reporting from the Huffington Post’s Dave Jamieson.