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‘Fails at the Starting Gate’

Amazon Flouted Workplace Safety Compliance Rules, Says Washington State

Amazon’s Oct. 3 complaint alleging Washington state’s requirement to abate hazards in the workplace violates its 14th Amendment rights to due process is a lawsuit that “fails at the starting gate,” said the Washington Department of Labor & Industries in a motion to dismiss Friday (docket 2:22-cv-01404) in U.S. District Court for Western Washington in Seattle.

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Under the axiom that “knowledge is power,” Washington requires employers to inform workers when an employer appeals a citation for violating workplace safety rules, said the motion. “This safeguard allows workers to take steps to protect their safety by participating in the appeal and by arguing that immediate safety changes (known as abatement) are needed to stop dangerous workplace conditions,” said the state.

Washington regulations tell employers “precisely how to inform their workers” of an appeal about workplace safety, said the department. Yet Amazon “failed to tell its workers that it was appealing a workplace safety citation, depriving workers of information necessary to object to Amazon’s motion for a stay of abatement of hazards in their workplace,” it said.

Amazon failed to act “even though it had knowledge of the employee-notice rules,” citing only its own “oversight” for why it didn’t comply, said the department. “As a result of this failure to give basic notice to all parties,” the Washington Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals denied Amazon’s motion for a stay of a workplace safety citation, prompting Amazon’s complaint in protest on constitutional grounds, it said.

Amazon didn’t receive the relief it wants not because of state action, “but because it failed to give mandated notice to its workers,” said the department. “Amazon’s alleged injury was traceable to its own failure to take action,” it said. Amazon’s complaint “lacks standing,” and should be dismissed, it said.

Protection from workplace hazards is “a fundamental right of Washington workers” under the state’s constitution, said the department. “This command to achieve workplace safety” led the department to issue Amazon a citation under the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act, “based on the finding that workers in the company’s Kent fulfillment center were working too fast to perform their tasks safely,” it said.

If an employer appeals the citation to the state, “it may request a stay of the abatement order pending appeal,” said the department. The employer customarily gets “an expeditious pre-deprivation process under which it may present evidence to support a stay,” it said. “Yet Amazon seeks to invalidate the entire statutory stay of abatement procedure under a due process theory -- even as abatement orders protect many workers (over 4,000 a year). It seeks this result because Amazon failed to receive a stay when it did not timely comply with notice rules.”