CALL: 516-248-5550
Se habla español
516- ABOGADO (226-4236)

Amazon Distribution Facility Workers Claims Dismissed in COVID-19 Precaution Suit

Distribution FacilityIn Palmer v., 20-cv-2468 (E.D.N.Y.), seven plaintiffs brought suit against internet retailer and Services, L.L.C. (“Amazon”) in June 2020, alleging Amazon’s failure to comply with state and federal public health guidance and law applicable to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The seven plaintiffs are composed of individuals employed by Amazon at the JFK8 Fulfillment Center, a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, that serves as a distribution center for purchases from the online retailer in the New York metropolitan area, as well as family members and cohabitants of the employees who allege they were put at risk by lacking safety standards due to their proximity to the employees of the facility.  Generally, the suit alleges claims for public nuisance, violation of New York Labor Law Section 200 for failure to protect the health and safety of employees, as well as a claim under New York Labor Law Section 191 attempting to enforce New York laws enacted to provide paid COVID-19 leave.

On November 1, 2020, the Honorable Brian M. Cogan, sitting in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, dismissed the complaint.  The Court first addressed the plaintiffs’ public nuisance and Section 200 claims, holding that the doctrine of primary-jurisdiction applied, allowing the dismissal of the complaint without prejudice.  Judge Cogan held that because Plaintiffs sought relief “that involves detailed aspects of how Amazon regulates its workplace” that “turn on factual issues requiring both technical and policy expertise[,]” which he opines the Court lacks the training, expertise, and resources to oversee compliance, and that the claims “go to the heart of OSHA’s expertise and discretion[,]” and because of the risk of inconsistent rulings,  that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) provides the appropriate venue for resolution of this matter.

The Court then holds that these claims would be subject to dismissal even without deference to OSHA, as the “the threat of future harm does not provide a valid basis for a tort claim” and thus a Section 200 claim cannot be brought on the threat of contracting COVID-19 alone, and any claim for harm suffered in the workplace is preempted by workers’ compensation law in New York, and that the claim for public nuisance does not present a difference in kind from the potential injury to the public at large, and is therefore not subject to a private right of action.  Finally, the Court dismissed plaintiffs’ Section 191 claim, stating that the leave provided in the New York COVID-19 leave law provides a benefit, not an earned wage, and therefore is not covered in a private right of action under Section 191.

The landscape of employment law is shifting rapidly as a result of COVID-19.  New legislation has been passed at the federal and state level and the law, like much our daily lives, is extremely fluid.  If you believe your employer has violated your rights, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. immediately to schedule a consultation through one of our websites,, or any of our phone numbers: (516) 248–5550, (516) ABOGADO, or (212) 679–5000.


910 Franklin Avenue
Suite 200
Garden City, NY 11530
Tel: 516-248-5550
Fax: 516-248-6027

655 Third Avenue
Suite 1821
New York, NY 10017
Tel: 212-679-5000
Fax: 212-679-5005