Amazon Sued for Wrongful Termination by Employee Trying to Enforce COVID-19 Protocols

On Monday, plaintiff David J. Bailey filed an employment lawsuit against, Inc. and Services, Inc. (collectively Amazon) for violations of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). His complaint recalls the facts leading up to his termination, which he alleges was retaliatory.

Amazon hired Bailey to work as a “Learning Ambassador” at its Bellmawr, N.J. facility on or about Jun. 26, 2019. In his role, the plaintiff “assisted floor managers, trained new  associates, ensured that existing associates maintained quality standards, and enforced Amazon protocols.” The complaint states that Bailey was “a hard-working employee who performed his job well,” while employed with Amazon.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey enacted a law mandating that all manufacturing and warehousing businesses implement protocol including mandating that employees wear personal protective equipment and maintain a distance of six feet from one another. Amazon soon memorialized these requirements in company policy.

The complaint states that the plaintiff was given the duty of enforcing these safety protocols at the facility. Amazon reportedly advised him that they were to be strictly enforced and violators would be reprimanded if not terminated.

According to the complaint, Bailey warned a particular employee, Kristopher Lauderdale, to wear his mask properly and maintain social distance several times but Lauderdale repeatedly ignored the plaintiff. An incident occurred sometime in early August, where the plaintiff informed Lauderdale to keep his distance after he was seen conversing with another employee while standing less than the required distance apart. Lauderdale supposedly rolled his eyes.

Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff again observed Lauderdale breaking the minimum distancing requirement. Supposedly, the two employees were standing “within just a foot of each other and tauntingly watching Plaintiff.” Bailey then walked by and muttered an expletive, “I can’t [expletive] even,” and moved away, the complaint explains.

The plaintiff then filed a report with Amazon’s onsite human resources department “complaining of Lauderdale’s refusal to maintain at least a six-foot distance from other employees, which constituted a violation of New Jersey State COVID-19 mitigation laws/regulations, as well as Defendants’ safety protocols.” The plaintiff claims that instead of investigating or addressing his concerns, Amazon suspended him for “threatening” Lauderdale, and fired him just a few days later. This is a pretext, Bailey argues, and he was really fired because he complained of Amazon’s illegal practices to management.

In turn, the plaintiff alleges a single violation of CEPA for wrongful termination. He requests the compensation he would have received, including “back pay, front pay, salary, pay increases, bonuses, insurance, benefits, training, promotions, reinstatement, and seniority,” punitive damages, and reimbursement of his litigation costs.

The plaintiff is represented by Karpf, Karpf & Cerutti, P.C.