Amazon settles with employees allegedly fired for criticizing work conditions

The former employees were outspoken critics of Amazon's climate policies and workplace practices.

Andrei Stanescu via Getty Images

Amazon was supposed to defend its decision in court to let Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa go last year. The former Amazon employees were outspoken critics of the company, and both were, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) previously decided, illegally fired. The e-commerce giant didn't have to defend itself, however, because it has settled with the affected parties shortly before the hearing could take place.

Cunningham and Costa, who worked on user experience design, openly criticized Amazon's climate policies and workplace practices. They previously slammed the company's climate policies in a video that gained national attention. And before they were let go in April 2020, both of them tweeted that they'd match donations up to $500 to support their warehouse worker colleagues. Cunningham said the "lack of safe and sanitary working conditions" puts the workers and the public at risk, while Costa tweeted that the workers "struggle to get consistent, sufficient protections and procedures" from their employer.

Amazon said when the news broke that they were let go for violating internal policies, namely for discussing the company without prior approval, and not for speaking out about working conditions specifically. The NLRB looked into accusations that Amazon retaliated against its employees for organizing or participating in protests, however, and determined that Cunningham and Costa were illegally fired.

According to The Washington Post, the settlement still needs to be approved by the NLRB regional director in Seattle, though Cunningham and Costa are already considering the settlement a victory. In a joint statement, they said the development is a "win for protecting workers rights" and that Amazon will be required to pay them lost wages. The whole statement reads:

"We are thrilled to announce that we have reached an agreement to settle the charge against Amazon at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that the company illegally fired us for speaking up about warehouse workers' conditions during COVID. This is a win for protecting workers rights, and shows that we were right to stand up for each other, for justice, and for our world. Amazon will be required to pay us our lost wages and post a notice to all of its tech and warehouse workers nationwide that Amazon can't fire workers for organizing and exercising their rights.

It’s also not lost on us that we are two women who were targeted for firing. Inequality, racism, and sexism are at the heart of both the climate crisis and the pandemic.

Tech workers standing up together have immense power to move the biggest corporations in the world. Everything we love is threatened by climate chaos. Workers at every company need to be standing up for each other and the world, together. Now is the time to be our best, bravest selves. We can only do this together. We hope you’ll join us."