Amazon and other tech employees walkout during the Global Climate Strike on September 20, 2019 in Seattle, Washington.
Karen Ducey/Getty Images
  • Amazon illegally fired employees who criticised the company, the National Labour Relations Board found.
  • The employees complained about worker conditions and the company's impact on climate change.
  • Amazon maintains the employees were fired for violating internal policies.
  • See more stories on Business Insider SA's home page.

Amazon acted illegally by firing two employees who publicly criticised the organisation last year, the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) found, the New York Times reported on Monday.

Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa were fired in April 2020 after speaking out on their concerns about the company's impact on climate change, and its treatment of warehouse workers during the pandemic. At the time, Amazon said the pair had violated internal policies.

The NLRB - an independent federal agency that protects the rights of private-sector employees in the US - said it would accuse Amazon of unfair labour practices if it did not settle the case with the women, Cunningham told the New York Times.

Cunningham told the publication that the agency's findings were a "moral victory" and "really shows that we are on the right side of history and the right side of the law."

Amazon again denied that the women were fired for criticising the company publicly, repeating its statement that they violated internal policies.

"We support every employee's right to criticise their employer's working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against our internal policies, all of which are lawful," Jaci Anderson, an Amazon spokesperson, told the New York Times.

"We terminated these employees not for talking publicly about working conditions, safety or sustainability but, rather, for repeatedly violating internal policies," she added.

The National Labour Review Board said complaints from Amazon employees tripled in the past year, Business Insider's Annabelle Williams previously reported.

There have been at least 37 complaints regarding anti-union activity claiming infringement on workers' rights since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month the NLRB accused Amazon of illegally intimidating and threatening a worker in New York City who led a walkout in March 2020.

Amazon employees in Birmingham, Alabama are currently voting on whether to form the firm's first ever union - a vote that was prompted by difficult warehouse working conditions, long hours, and a lack of job security.

The 6,000 workers at the Birmingham warehouse have until Monday to cast their vote. The campaign has been publicly opposed by Amazon from the beginning, with anti-union ads and signs.

The news rounds out a tough week for Amazon, which apologised on Saturday for snarky tweets targeted at Rep. Mark Pocan that denied its workers pee in bottles. The firm's original tweets triggered a week of damaging news headlines after Amazon drivers told journalists - including at Insider - that time pressure meant they peed in bottles, pooped in bags, and struggled to change menstrual pads in their vans.

Representatives for Amazon and the National Labour Relations Board did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

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