Amazon warehouses in three states are under investigation over alleged unsafe workplace conditions, officials have confirmed.
The investigations also will examine injuries resulting from workplace hazards, worker rate requirements, and the pace of work, as well as whether the retailing giant has appropriately reported on-the-job injuries.
Federal prosecutors in New York and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are inspecting a number of Amazon warehouses across the country, and inspections were launched on Monday morning, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY).
The investigations began in warehouses outside New York City, Chicago, and Orlando, and came in response to referrals received from SDNY, according to SDNY chief spokesperson Nicholas Biase.
Workers across Amazon warehouses have attempted to form unions in recent months amid complaints over working conditions, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and safety issues.
A Staten Island, New York, facility voted in favor of unionizing in April, making it the first Amazon warehouse to be represented by a union in the United States.
“This morning, the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration entered Amazon warehouses outside New York City, Chicago, and Orlando to conduct workplace safety inspections in response to referrals received from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York concerning potential workplace hazards related, among other things, to Amazon’s required pace of work for its warehouse employees,” a spokesman for the office, Nicholas Biase, said in a statement to ABC News on Monday.
“The Civil Division of the SDNY is investigating potential worker safety hazards at Amazon warehouses across the country, as well as possible fraudulent conduct designed to hide injuries from OSHA and others,” Biase added.
A U.S. Department of Labor spokesperson confirmed in a statement to CNBC that it has launched investigations at Amazon warehouses in New York, Illinois, and Florida over alleged safety and health violations.
The spokesperson added that it “routinely receives referrals” from various federal agencies, law enforcement, advocacy groups, and others, but declined to provide more information on the probes because they are “active investigations.”
Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told the outlet in a statement that the company will cooperate with OSHA during the investigation, adding that they ultimately believe the probe will “show that these concerns are unfounded.”
As part of the ongoing investigation, SDNY is asking those who have information regarding alleged safety issues at Amazon warehouses to report it via an online form.
Specifically, SDNY notes that it would “like to hear from current and former warehouse workers, supervisors, safety team members, AmCare staff, or anyone else with relevant information.”
The e-commerce giant has come under fire from activist groups and regulators over its labor practices, including working hours and conditions.
In December, Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) called on the Labor Department to conduct a full federal probe into the company’s employment practices, adding that they had questions about possible violations of wage and hour laws and occupational safety rules.
The senators noted that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that Amazon wrongfully terminated a worker who complained about unsafe working conditions during the pandemic, and pointed to the collapse of an Amazon warehouse in Illinois during a tornado, which led to the deaths of six people.
In March, the company was fined $60,000 following a probe by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries that found that Amazon was “knowingly putting workers at risk of injury,” in a warehouse in Kent, Washington.
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy wrote in a letter to shareholders in April that the company’s injury rates are “sometimes misunderstood,” but that the retailer is “passionate about further improving safety in our fulfillment network, with a focus on reducing strains, sprains, falls, and repetitive stress injuries.”
The Epoch Times reached out to Amazon for comment.