Fired Amazon worker gets a court hearing over retaliation claims

Officials found enough merit to look into claims of labor abuse.

Amazon workers alleging retaliation over whistleblowing and labor organization will get at least one day in court. BuzzFeed News has learned that the National Labor Relations Board has granted former worker Courtney Bowden a hearing before an administrative law judge on March 9th, 2021. The NLRB found enough merit in Bowden’s claims that Amazon had been “interfering with, restraining, and coercing” workers to advance the case.

Bowden accused Amazon of threatening, suspending and eventually firing her for talking to fellow warehouse workers in Pennsylvania about pay and other workplace conditions. She was part of a larger wave of workers who said they were terminated this spring for being outspoken critics of Amazon’s labor practices, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company supposedly used thin pretenses for punishing workers, such as claims Bowden violated a rule about wearing hair.

Amazon didn’t respond to BuzzFeed’s request for comment, and declined to provide a copy of its required response to the NLRB for the complaint. Amazon Executive VP Dave Clark previously told Recode he had “never seen” workers punished or fired for speaking out.

A successful NLRB case by itself won’t lead to much. The board could force Amazon to provide back pay, restore Bowden’s job or explicitly inform workers of their rights to discuss labor issues. If Bowden wins, though, she could help fuel other cases and step up pressure on Amazon to change its claimed practices.