Amazon and New York AG File Dueling Oppositions in COVID-19 Labor Practices Suit

Late last week, New York’s chief law enforcement officer and Inc. and affiliates squared off again in one of two legal battles over Amazon warehouse working conditions during the pandemic. In federal court, New York filed its opposition to Amazon’s motion for summary judgement on the same day Amazon opposed the state’s motion to dismiss. In state court, New York has accused Amazon of violating state labor and anti-retaliation and whistleblower protection laws.

For her part, New York Attorney General Letitia James reiterated that an almost year-long investigation revealed that Amazon was not taking required precautions to keep its workers safe from the virus. Instead of facing the music, the opposition to summary judgment averred, “Amazon raced to the courthouse to seek declaratory and injunctive relief to thwart state law, state court jurisdiction, and the lawful enforcement efforts of the OAG.”

The filing argued that Amazon has not shown its entitlement to a permanent injunction or declaratory judgment because the company failed to provide facts supporting a finding of irreparable injury. The state then contended that its claims are not preempted by two federal laws, as Amazon insists.

In its opposition to the state’s motion to dismiss, Amazon asserted that its “industry-leading” response to COVID-19 measures go “above and beyond governmental guidance and requirements.” It then attacked the attorney general’s stance for disregarding federal law and federal regulators.

The opposition struck back at arguments that the Eastern District of New York court overseeing the case lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. To the contrary, Amazon argued, the case is indisputably proper given that it seeks injunctive relief from New York law on the basis that such law is preempted by federal statute.

The company combatted arguments that the state is exempt from judicial scrutiny under prior case law. Judicial abstention is not available to New York because the state pursued its claims in bad faith and because Amazon brings claims under federal law and does not seek declaratory relief alone, the opposition said. 

Finally, Amazon alleged, its complaint is legally sound, thus arguments as to why Amazon fails to state a claim “are easily dispatched.” Short of denying the state’s motion to dismiss, Amazon asked alternatively that the court stay proceedings. Amazon has requested a hearing as to both motions.

Amazon is represented by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.