Amazon must reinstate the fired employee, the judge ruled

A judge on Monday ruled that Amazon must reinstate an employee and pay lost wages after the company was “illegally” fired two years ago after protests at its fulfillment center on Staten Island, the same warehouse that recently voted in a historic election to unionize. .

The regional director of the National Labor Relations Board argued that the firing was retaliation for protesting the security situation, which is protected by federal labor law. Benjamin W. Green, an administrative law judge, agreed.

The lawsuit is based on a verbal altercation in the early days of the epidemic in New York. On April 6, 2020, Gerald Bryson protested outside the warehouse, known as JFK8, and said it should be closed for safety. Another employee said he wanted to keep the facility open because he was grateful for the extra pay he received for working during the epidemic. The two exchanged insults, but only Mr. Bryson was fired. The woman received a written warning.

“Winning for me and going back through that door changes everything,” Mr. Bryson said in an interview Monday. “It simply came to our notice then that Amazon could be defeated. It shows that you have to fight for what you believe in. “

Amazon says Mr Bryson was fired for violating policy against obscene and harassing language. It defended its activities by pointing to an internal investigation conducted and arguing that the punishment was consistent with the way other employees were treated.

“We strongly disagree with this ruling and are surprised that the NLRB would require any employer to pardon Mr. Bryson’s behavior,” Kelly Nantel, a company spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Mr. Bryson was fired for threatening, cursing and insulting a female colleague for a bullhorn in front of the workplace.”

“We do not tolerate such behavior in our workplace and would like to file an appeal with the NLRB,” he added.

Mr Green, the judge, knocked out Amazon’s key arguments for dismissal. He said Amazon’s investigation was “isolated” and was designed to find out why Mr Bryson was fired for protesting. Noting that Amazon did not interview a protester who recorded the argument, the judge wrote that Amazon “preferred not to take information from the protester with Bryson even though that person was probably in the best position to explain what happened.”

He also questioned the statements of managers and other employees whom Amazon interviewed. Amazon, for example, has documented that the woman, who is white, and a manager said Mr. Bryson called her racial slurs during the fight. But a video of the encounter shows that it never happened. The woman told Mr. Bryson, who is black, to “go back to the Bronx,” which the judge said Mr. Bryson could reasonably interpret as “ethnic.”

“I find it impossible for six people to see the argument and coincidentally provide these one-sided, exaggerated accounts unless such accounts are demanded of them,” he wrote.

Mr Bryson, who celebrated the verdict with his 9-year-old son, said he was glad the judge had found that some of Amazon’s public statements about him were not valid. “I really feel like they’ve ruined my name for over two years without a reason,” he said.

Amazon justified the shooting by saying that other employees of the facility were fired for similar behavior, but the judge did not agree. He said Amazon’s records “indicate less penalties for more threatening behavior or physical contact than for Bryson.” He added that none of the examples involved out-of-facility incidents at unpaid time.

Mr. Green further noted that Amazon did not create all the documents requested in the subpoena. He said Amazon must post a notice confirming workers’ right to form a union inside the warehouse and publicly acknowledge the remedies it should take.

“This is a harsh rebuke to Amazon’s illegal, Gerald’s retaliatory termination,” said Frank Carl, a progressive advocacy group representing Mr. Bryson, a lawyer at Make the Road New York.

Amazon fought the lawsuit in labor court and federal court. To examine a witness at last year’s hearing, Amazon hired Zainab Ahmed, a lawyer for Gibson, Dun & Kutcher, and a former federal prosecutor who prosecuted the terrorists.

In a related lawsuit, the Labor Board filed a lawsuit against Amazon in federal court last month, asking a judge to order the company to reinstate Mr. Bryson because otherwise “serious breaches” of protections would continue “uncontrolled.” That case is still ongoing.

Amazon argued that the labor agency was biased when it asked a federal judge to intervene in JFK8 just before the union election. The agency cited Mr Bryson’s case as the main reason for the union’s victory.

The Amazon Labor Union, which won the JFK 8 vote, is facing a second vote in a neighboring warehouse at the end of April.

Mr Bryson, who is active in the union, said the ruling strengthened the case against the workers. “I came to say, ‘Listen, I’ve only fought them for two years and won,'” he said.

Amazon’s appeal for Monday’s ruling will go to the company’s five-member board. If it loses there, it could challenge the outcome in federal court.

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