Thornton Amazon warehouse target of state labor complaint

Linda Rodriguez alleges Amazon retaliated against her for speaking up about COVID-19 protocols

Liam Adams
ladams@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/7/21

A complaint filed with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) alleges that Amazon retaliated against a former employee at its Thornton warehouse for raising concerns about workplace …

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Thornton Amazon warehouse target of state labor complaint

Linda Rodriguez alleges Amazon retaliated against her for speaking up about COVID-19 protocols

Posted

A complaint filed with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) alleges that Amazon retaliated against a former employee at its Thornton warehouse for raising concerns about workplace conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Towards Justice, a Denver-based nonprofit law firm, and Attorney Hunter Swain of Swain Law, LLC, filed the complaint on behalf of Linda Rodriguez as a prerequisite to potential legal action in the future, said David Seligman, executive director of Towards Justice. The Department of Labor and Employment will investigate Rodriguez's allegation that supervisors at the Thornton warehouse fired Rodriguez for speaking up about problems she saw at the facility with contact tracing, cleaning and communication.

“It seemed like Amazon just wanted to pressure people to keep coming to work during the pandemic, even though we were terrified, and so they didn't tell us whether we'd been exposed and didn't even explain to my Spanish-speaking co-workers in a language they could understand that they shouldn't come to work if they were sick,” Rodriguez said in a press release.

In a copy of the CDLE complaint, Rodriguez said supervisors at the Thornton warehouse did not enforce mask-wearing and social distancing, ensure proper cleaning of the facility, provide correct information about contact tracing and adequately communicate about COVID-19 safety protocols in Spanish.

Rodriguez began speaking up last June after learning through other employees, not company officials, that a coworker she came into contact with later tested positive for COVID-19, the complaint said. That first time, Rodriguez complained to her supervisor who, “immediately shut down the conversation, responding that Amazon had instructed him not to discuss the confirmed infection,” the complaint alleges.

A regular issue Rodriguez observed was that warehouse employees did not provide important COVID-19 safety information — including warnings that employees should not clock in and enter the facility if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms — in Spanish during pre-shift meetings. Thus, the complaint said, “Amazon was able to maintain pressure on its Spanish-speaking workers to continue attending work even if they felt sick.”

Rodriguez expressed her concerns to supervisors several times throughout the summer months and little was done in response, the complaint alleged. On Aug. 22, Rodriguez shared with a supervisor she was considering filing a complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). On Aug. 24, Amazon suspended Rodriguez for “time theft” and later terminated her.

Amazon spokesperson Maria Boschetti said in a statement, “The facts of this case are clear: Ms. Rodriguez was terminated for timecard fraud or 'time theft.'  On at least a half dozen occasions over a ten-day period, Ms. Rodriguez clocked in and then either left the building or failed to report to her work assignment.”

Boschetti added, “When interviewed, with just one exception, Ms. Rodriguez did not deny the allegations nor was she able to justify them.”

Rodriguez and her attorneys defend in the CDLE complaint that Amazon's reason for firing Rodriguez is a “...pretext to disguise its unlawful retaliation against her” and that a filing with the Colorado Civil Rights Division proves as much.

“I saw that Amazon was scared of me speaking out for myself and my co-workers. It intimidated me and ultimately fired me when I raised my voice, but I'm not backing down,” Rodriguez said in a press release.

The CDLE complaint asks the department to determine if Amazon violated Colorado's Public Health Emergency Whistleblower (PHEW) Act, which protects workers who raise concerns about workplace violations.

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