Republicans slam U.S. labor board case over Amazon worker's firing

3 minute read

The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics centre in Boves, France, August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

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  • Lawmakers say firing was justified after worker's vulgar tirade
  • Agency is seeking to force Amazon to re-hire worker
  • Staten Island Amazon warehouse recently became first to unionize

(Reuters) - A group of Republican U.S. lawmakers has criticized a U.S. labor agency's case seeking to force Amazon.com Inc to re-hire a warehouse employee after he engaged in a vulgar tirade against a female coworker, calling its pursuit of the claims "disturbing."

U.S. Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Mike Braun of Indiana in a letter to National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo on Thursday said Amazon was well within its rights to fire the worker, Gerald Bryson, whose conduct came during a protest of working conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A video of the April 2020 protest shows Bryson arguing with a female employee and calling her a "gutter bitch," "crackhead," and "stupid."

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In Thursday's letter, the senators and U.S. Reps. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina and Rick Allen of Georgia said Amazon was required to take action against Bryson under federal anti-discrimination laws, which prohibit employers from tolerating a hostile work environment.

They also questioned the timing of the board's March court petition seeking Bryson's immediate reinstatement, which was filed nearly two years after his firing and days before workers at the Staten Island warehouse voted to create the first union of Amazon employees.

"The NLRB has jeopardized the neutral laboratory conditions necessary for an impartial election," the lawmakers wrote.

An NLRB spokeswoman declined to comment on Friday. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

In a December 2020 complaint, the NLRB said Amazon had fired Bryson for his involvement in the protest, in violation of federal labor law. An administrative judge last month ordered Amazon to reinstate Bryson, and the company has appealed to the five-member board.

In March, before the administrative judge's decision, Abruzzo's office filed a petition in New York federal court seeking to force Amazon to re-hire Bryson immediately pending the outcome of the board case.

The Republicans in Thursday's letter said the board in court filings had omitted details about the vulgar statements Bryson made at the protest. Abruzzo's office also ignored a Trump-era NLRB ruling that limits labor-law protections for workers who use profane or racist language during strikes and protests, they said.

The lawmakers asked Abruzzo to explain why her office waited nearly two years to file the court petition, and why it had not acknowledged Bryson's conduct during the protest.

Read more:

U.S. labor board claims Amazon illegally fired warehouse worker

NLRB says Amazon should re-hire worker who complained about COVID-19 safety

NLRB limits protections for profane, racist outbursts by workers

Amazon's union: Two warehouses, two outcomes

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.