Colorado woman files whistleblower complaint against Amazon

A woman who says she was fired from Amazon’s giant sorting center in Thornton because she repeatedly raised concerns about COVID-19 risks there has filed a whistleblower complaint with the state labor department, according to two law firms representing her.

It’s a possible precursor to a lawsuit.

Linda Rodriguez says that, in particular, it was her complaints about poor contact tracing practices and Amazon’s failure to provide health and safety information in Spanish that led to her dismissal from the Thornton facility last year.

“It seemed like Amazon just wanted to pressure people to keep coming to work during the pandemic, even though we were terrified, and so they didn’t tell us whether we’d been exposed and didn’t even explain to my Spanish-speaking co-workers in a language they could understand that they shouldn’t come to work if they were sick,” Rodriguez said in a news release.

Lawyers with two Denver-based law offices, employment firm Swain Law and nonprofit worker-focused firm Towards Justice, filed the complaint with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment on Thursday.

It hinges on a law state legislators passed last year known as the Public Health Emergency Whistleblower Act, or PHEW. It was designed to protect workers who raise concerns about public safety during a public health emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the event an employer retaliates against a worker for raising concerns — say, by firing them — and a lawsuit is filed, the employer could be held liable for lost wages or $10,000, whichever amount is greater.

In Friday’s news release, the firms representing Rodriguez note that filing a complaint with the state labor department is a necessary step before filing a lawsuit in court.

“Colorado recognized that worker voice (sic) is essential to protecting workers and the public health,” Towards Justice executive director David Seligman said in a statement. “We are proud to represent Ms. Rodriguez in her fight to hold Amazon accountable.”

This is s developing story that will be updated.

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