Amazon is suing the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) over a dispute regarding citations and fines the state agency issued for ergonomics violations.
Amazon filed the lawsuit Oct. 3 in the federal court for the Western District of Washington, asking a judge to prohibit orders from L&I to remedy workplace hazards during the pending appeal over the citations, according to The Washington Post.
Agency claims fast pace heightened risk for injuries
The company claims L&I failed to prove any of its allegations and “requiring companies like it to remedy alleged hazards before that happens violates the due process protections under the 14th Amendment.”
This stems from an inspection L&I conducted at an Amazon warehouse in Kent, Washington, where the agency claims it found workplace processes that exposed workers to ergonomics-related injuries. Specifically, L&I said workers were expected to lift and carry items at a fast pace that heightened the risk for back, shoulder, wrist and knee injuries.
Amazon’s warehouse injury rate is higher than the industry standard and the company claims it is attempting to improve. However, Amazon has continued to find itself in trouble at both the federal and state level.
Proposed changes ‘tremendously disruptive’
L&I claims Amazon was aware of the hazards at its Kent facility because the agency found similar violations at three other Amazon warehouses, resulting in a $7,000 fine for each facility. The state agency raised the penalty to $60,000 for the Kent facility because it said Amazon was “knowingly putting workers at risk.”
The state agency also proposed changes Amazon could make to reduce injuries, but the company said in the lawsuit that the cost of those changes would be “tremendously disruptive” to operations.
“In this particular filing, we’re challenging an unusual state requirement that says we need to change our operations prior to a full and fair hearing on the merits, which we don’t believe is the right approach,” Amazon told The Washington Post.
Amazon appealed the citations, and a hearing is expected to conclude early in 2023.