On November 21, 2023, Administrative Law Judge Lauren Esposito found that Amazon.com Services LLC (“Amazon”) violated the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”). Amazon’s actions offer a cautionary tale for employers, who should look to this decision for lessons on how to address union activities in accordance with the Act.
Amazon violated the Act by dismissing employees early, altering employee work assignments, and subjecting employees to closer supervision in retaliation for support of the Amazon Labor Union or engaging in other protected concerted activities. Case Nos. 29-CA-277198, 278982, 277598, 278-701, 285445, and 286272.
The decision was based on allegations that Amazon violated Section 8(a)(1) and Section 8(a)(3) of the Act by discharging Daequan Smith in retaliation for his support of the Amazon Labor Union and other protected activity. Other violations included coercive interrogations, statements relating to union support, promises relating to employee grievances, surveillance of union activity, and confiscation of union literature.
ALJ Esposito ordered Amazon to (1) cease and desist from violating the Act, (2) provide Daequan Smith with backpay earnings and other benefits resulting from his unlawful dismissal in October 2021, and (3) post a notice visible to all employees detailing the violations found and their rights under the Act.
While Amazon’s violations seem clear, employers should use this decision as a learning tool for decision-makers, HR employees, and even employees tasked with providing security at employers’ facilities. Many of Amazon’s violations relating to the distribution and confiscation of union literature were committed by an HR Assistant and an HR Business Partner. Moreover, an Amazon security guard told employees they could not distribute union literature and conducted surveillance of union activities. These mistakes could have been avoided with proper training.
Employers must be careful not to infringe on an employee’s rights under the Act; violations can come from a simple statement directing employees not to distribute union literature. Employers should seek legal counsel to ensure adherence to the Act and–just as importantly–proper employee training to avoid employee mistakes that may lead to violations.