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Amazon sues Washington workplace safety regulators


Amazon Inc. on Monday filed a lawsuit against the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, claiming that the state’s workplace safety protocols for citing, fining and abating hazards violates due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court Western District of Washington in Seattle, stems from a March 2022 inspection of an Amazon facility in Kent, Washington, in which the department alleged “several ‘serious willful’ violations, not of any specific workplace safety regulation but of the general duty of all employers to maintain a hazard-free workplace.”

The citation further alleged that Amazon had failed to address various alleged ergonomic hazards despite the absence of any specific ergonomic standards in either the Washington or federal occupational health and safety laws, according to the lawsuit.

Amazon said it challenged those allegations in state administrative proceedings, and that challenge remains pending, with an evidentiary hearing scheduled for early 2023, according to the complaint. 

The suit claims that per Washington labor law a company challenging a serious citation is required to abate the alleged hazards first, “before the state has made any effort to satisfy its legal burden to prove that a violation has occurred and before the company has a meaningful opportunity to challenge the allegations,” the lawsuit states.

Amazon further argued that “though the state has yet to prove any violation, if the company does not abate to the state’s satisfaction it can face fines of up to $7,000 per day, per violation. In this case, Amazon could face fines of up to $70,000 per day.” Amazon also claims the state can inspect its facilities and cite the company for the same violations at other facilities, and use the previously issued but still unproven violations as evidence of “willfulness” to justify imposing even stiffer penalties and additional compliance costs,” according to the complaint.

Amazon is seeking an injunction prohibiting the department from “requiring that Amazon implement costly, burdensome, and potentially unnecessary abatement measures until the (d)epartment carries its burden of proving that Amazon has, in fact, violated any safety or health regulation.”

A Department of Labor and Industries spokesman said the department is aware of the lawsuit and will be reviewing the filing with the Attorney General’s Office.