A federal labor board is seeking the reinstatement of an Amazon employee who was fired after leading a protest in the early days of the pandemic calling for the company to do more to protect workers against COVID-19.
Gerald Bryson, who worked at an Amazon warehouse in the New York borough of Staten Island, helped lead the protest outside a warehouse in April 2020. Frank Kearl, Bryson’s attorney, said while off the job during the protest, Bryson got into a dispute with another worker. Amazon later fired him for violating its vulgar-language policy.
Bryson filed an unfair labor practice case in 2020, claiming Amazon retaliated against him. The National Labor Relations Board said later that year it found merit in the complaint.
Seattle-based Amazon has previously said Bryson was “witnessed by other employees bullying and intimidating a female associate.” It did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Thursday.
If the court approves the labor board’s request, Bryson would be able to return to his job at Amazon.
In a court filing at the Eastern District of New York Thursday, the NRLB requested the online retail giant post a copy of the court order in all breakrooms, bathrooms, and bathroom stalls and other places where the company post notices to its employees at the JFK8 facility where Bryson worked.
The labor board is also requesting Amazon distribute English and Spanish copies of the court order to internet sites or apps it uses to communicate with its employees, and have the order read to workers during one or more mandatory meetings.
The complaint filed by the board accused the company of having “flagrant unfair labor practices.” It said that if Amazon doesn’t rehire Bryson employees at the company “will inevitably conclude that the board cannot effectively protect their rights” under federal labor law.
“No matter how large the employer, it is important for workers to know their rights —particularly during a union election — and that the NLRB will vociferously defend them,” Kathy Drew King, a regional director for the NLRB office overseeing the lawsuit, said in a statement.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is suing Amazon over COVID-19 safety protocols, also filed a motion in December to force Amazon to rehire Christian Smalls, another fired employee. Smalls is currently a leader in an organization called the Amazon Labor Union, which is trying to unionize JFK8. The union vote is scheduled to start on March 25.