Amazon seeks to revive bid to block NY lawsuit over COVID-19 policies – Reuters.com

Amazon seeks to revive bid to block NY lawsuit over COVID-19 policies – Reuters.com

The Amazon logo is displayed on a sign outside the company's LDJ5 sortation center in the Staten Island borough of New York City, U.S. April 25, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid.
(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc on Tuesday will urge a U.S. appeals court to revive its lawsuit that sought to prevent the New York Attorney General from investigating the online retailer over its efforts to protect warehouse workers from COVID-19.
A panel of three 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges in Manhattan will take up Amazon's claim that the state's probe should be blocked because it is preempted by federal labor law.
A New York state appeals court dismissed the AG's case earlier this month.
The AG began investigating Amazon after it fired one employee and disciplined another who had protested the company's alleged lack of pandemic safety policies. Amazon sued to block the probe in February 2021, and the state filed its own lawsuit a few days later.
The AG claimed Amazon’s drive for faster growth and higher profits led to its “flagrant disregard” of steps needed to protect workers at the warehouse and another facility in Queens, and that the company illegally retaliated against workers who protested.
U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn in August said he was required to dismiss Amazon's case because it would interfere with the state's lawsuit.
Cogan cited the legal doctrine of Younger abstention, named for a 1971 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said federal courts must abstain from hearing civil claims brought by parties who are facing related actions by state officials in state court.
Amazon in its appeal says Younger abstention does not apply when claims brought under state law are preempted by federal law.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nor did the attorney general's office.
The state court that tossed out the attorney general's case two weeks ago agreed with Amazon that the National Labor Relations Act preempted the state's claims that Amazon retaliated against the two employees.
In a filing earlier this month, Amazon's lawyers told the 2nd Circuit that the state court's ruling bolstered the company's position that the AG should never have launched an investigation or a lawsuit because only a federal labor board could pursue the allegations.
The office of Attorney General Letitia James responded in a filing that it disagreed with the ruling and was considering its options. But even if Amazon prevails on the preemption issue, the AG said, the decision "confirms that New York state courts are an adequate forum for Amazon to obtain judicial review."
Amazon has said that it took a comprehensive approach to COVID-19 safety and that two workers were disciplined or fired for violating those policies and not for protesting.
Workers at the Staten Island warehouse voted last month to form a union, the first in Amazon's history. The company is challenging the results of the election.
The case is Amazon.com Inc v. Attorney General Letitia James, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 21-2007.
For Amazon: Jason Schwartz of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher
For the Attorney General: Assistant Solicitor General Ester Murdukhayeva
Read more:
Amazon loses bid to stop New York from probing COVID-19 standards
Amazon.com wins dismissal of NY attorney general lawsuit over worker safety
New York accuses Amazon of backsliding over worker safety, seeks monitor
Amazon to get hearing that could overturn New York union vote
Amazon's union: Two warehouses, two outcomes
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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.
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