New York accuses Amazon of pregnancy, disability discrimination

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Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York Division of Human Rights filed a complaint Wednesday against Amazon over alleged pregnancy and disability discrimination against workers, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced.

Key context: The complaint accuses Amazon of denying reasonable accommodations to workers who are pregnant or have disabilities, in violation of New York’s Human Rights Law. It alleges that the company, which operates 23 worksites in New York, has policies that force such employees to take unpaid leave rather than allowing them to work with accommodations.

“New York has the strongest worker protections in the nation and was one of the first to have protections for workers who are pregnant and those with disabilities,” Hochul said in a statement. “Working men and women are the backbone of New York and we will continue to take a stand against any injustice they face."

Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The details: The state alleged that under Amazon’s accommodation policy, employees with disabilities are forced to take unpaid medical leave, even when in-house consultants have identified reasonable accommodations that allow workers to perform essential job functions without undue burden.

That, the Hochul administration argued, diminishes the terms and conditions of employment and violates the Human Rights Law, which requires all employers to reasonably accommodate workers with disabilities or pregnancy-related conditions upon request.

What’s next: The complaint seeks a decision requiring Amazon to cease such conduct and to adopt “non-discriminatory policies and practices regarding the review of requests for reasonable accommodations, train its employees on the provisions of the Human Rights Law and pay civil fines and penalties to the State of New York.”

Division of Human Rights Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement Melissa Franco said her agency “will work to ensure that everyone in our state is fully afforded the rights and dignities that the law requires.”

The division has the power to investigate and prosecute “systematic patterns of discrimination” through its Division Initiated Action Unit.