New York City is investigating online retail giant Amazon after it fired a warehouse worker on the same day he participated in a strike protesting against the company’s coronavirus response.
Chris Smalls, who worked at an Amazon facility in New York, was fired after striking over the company’s health and safety policies after a colleague tested positive for COVID-19.
New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, has called on the city’s human rights commissioner to investigate the case.
Mr Smalls alleges that Amazon fired him in retaliation for his part in organising the demonstration about the company’s policies to protect workers from being exposed to the virus.
Amazon has denied Mr Smalls’s allegations, and instead the company accused him of breaching guidelines on social distancing after he came into close contact with the infected colleague.
It comes as Donald Trump said coronavirus deaths in the US are expected to peak in two weeks – as his top scientific adviser warned the outbreak could kill up to 200,000 Americans.
There are now more than 37,000 confirmed cases in New York state – the worst affected state in the country – as suspected and confirmed coronavirus cases in America number above 136,000 on a national basis.
Amazon claimed Mr Smalls was asked to stay at home on paid sick leave for 14 days.
“Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came on site today, 30 March, further putting the teams at risk,” the company claimed in a statement.
“This is unacceptable and we have terminated his employment as a result of these multiple safety issues,” the statement added.
However, the New York attorney general, Letitia James, described Amazon’s decision to fire Mr Smalls as “disgraceful” in a tweet. Ms James also called on the US National Labour Relations Board to investigate the case.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said: “The allegation is because he spoke up for the safety of his fellow workers, he was fired.
“I have ordered the city’s Commission on Human Rights to investigate Amazon immediately to determine if that’s true.”
Mr de Blasio added in a news conference on Tuesday: “If so, that would be a violation of our city human rights law, and we would act on it immediately.”