In a decision dated November 1, Judge Brian Cogan wrote that the workers’ claims and proposed injunctive relief “go to the heart of OSHA’s expertise and discretion.”
“This case concerns state and federal guidance addressing workplace safety during a pandemic for which there is no immediate end in sight. Regulating in the age of Covid-19 is a dynamic and fact-intensive matter fraught with medical and scientific uncertainty. There is room for significant disagreement as to the necessity or wisdom of any particular workplace policy or practice,” Cogan added. “Courts are not expert in public health or workplace safety matters, and lack the training, expertise, and resources to oversee compliance with evolving industry guidance.”
The plaintiffs have not made an application to OSHA, according to Cogan’s decision. CNN Business has reached out to OSHA for comment.
“The Court’s decision to grant Amazon’s motion to dismiss the claims of workers at the company’s JFK8 facility is devastating for the health and safety of Amazon workers nationwide,” said the legal team for the plaintiffs, Make the Road New York, Public Justice, Terrell Marshall Law Group, and Towards Justice, in a statement to CNN Business. “The Court’s deference to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration should be very concerning to anyone who cares about the health of American workers, given that OSHA has been virtually AWOL throughout this crisis.” The team said they are weighing an appeal of the decision.
In a statement, Lisa Levandowski, an Amazon spokesperson, said: “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our employees, which is why at the onset of the pandemic we moved quickly to make more than 150 COVID-19 related process changes. And, we continue to innovate, learn, and improve the measures we have in place to protect our teams.”
“Judge Cogan’s decision suggests he has no understanding of how OSHA works or the dire situation facing workers who may be exposed to the Covid-19,” said David Michaels, a professor at George Washington University School of Public Health and former head of OSHA during the Obama administration in an email to CNN Business.
“OSHA is only inspecting a tiny fraction of workplaces where workers have reported uncontrolled exposure, and, even if OSHA did inspect, OSHA has no standard to measure compliance against because Labor Secretary Gene Scalia has refused to issue an Emergency Standard for Covid exposure,” said Michaels.