Amazon Appeals Dismissal of Suit Over NY COVID-19 Warehouse Working Conditions

On Tuesday, plaintiff Inc. filed a notice of appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals from the lower court’s decision granting New York Attorney General Letitia James’s motion to dismiss and denying Amazon’s motion for summary judgment. 

The case concerns Amazon’s argument that the Office of the Attorney General does not have the power to sanction it under state law, which if upheld, would curtail the office’s separate, state court lawsuit against the e-commerce giant for health and safety violations in its New York facilities during the pandemic.

As previously reported, the Eastern District of New York did not reach the merits of Amazon’s request for a declaration that the attorney general’s actions are preempted by federal law and fall within the jurisdiction of federal agencies. Instead, the court abstained from exercising jurisdiction over the case, citing comity principles in view of the attorney general’s affirmative action. Though his analysis found subject matter jurisdiction, Judge Brian M. Cogan opined that allowing Amazon to proceed in federal court would improperly tread upon state court proceedings.

Judge Cogan’s decision followed one by Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the Southern District of New York issued in late July explaining his April decision to grant the New York attorney general’s motion for remand in its affirmative case. In that decision, Judge Rakoff held that Amazon’s removal to federal court was improper due to want of subject matter jurisdiction.

The court also held that Amazon’s removal could not be justified on preemption grounds. Among other findings, the court ruled that the federal Occupational Health and Safety Act and National Labor Relations Act are not among the laws that completely preempt state law claims as required by the “arise-under” jurisdictional test.

The remanded case will now proceed in New York County’s Supreme Court, while Amazon’s appeal will head to the Second Circuit. In both matters, Amazon is represented by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.