- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
- The Attorney General's Fair Labor Division
Media Contact for AG Healey Joins Coalition Defending States’ Authority To Protect Workers From Retaliation
BOSTON — Attorney General Maura Healey joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief defending states’ authority to protect workers from retaliation when they speak up about unsafe working conditions and other workplace violations.
In the amicus brief, the coalition supported New York Attorney General Letitia James’ request to reinstate her lawsuit against Amazon for failing to take adequate health and safety precautions for workers at its New York facilities and for unlawfully retaliating against employees for protesting unsafe work conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In May, a New York state appellate court dismissed James’ lawsuit, ruling that because the disciplined employees had participated in protests that the court viewed as linked to a unionization drive, New York’s retaliation claims were preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA governs collective bargaining and other coordinated efforts by workers. The coalition has since filed an amicus brief supporting James’ request that the lower appellate court allow New York to appeal the decision to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.
“Many states have existing laws in place to protect workers from retaliation for speaking up on issues involving working conditions, such as pay, discrimination, and workplace safety,” said AG Healey. “But if courts begin holding that these laws are preempted by federal labor law, as the New York court did, then states will be prevented from utilizing these laws to protect workers who organize to advocate for themselves and their co-workers. I am joining my colleagues today in filing this amicus brief calling on the court to allow states to protect workers from retaliation by their employers.”
The coalition argues that the appellate court’s ruling would excessively limit the ability of states to protect workers when employers retaliate against them for speaking up collectively. According to the brief, the ruling expands NLRA preemption to include claims with relatively weak ties to collective action by employees. While there are anti-retaliation protections at the federal level, most states have established even more robust laws that protect employees who report workplace misconduct from termination or other adverse action.
AG Healey has always advocated for the rights of employees in the workplace, and worked to combat all forms of worker exploitation. At the beginning of the pandemic, in Spring 2020, AG Healey led a coalition of 14 attorneys general calling on Amazon to improve health and safety policies at their warehouses. The AG’s sixth annual Labor Day Report revealed that in fiscal year 2021, the AG’s Office assessed more than $8.1 million in restitution and penalties on behalf of working people in Massachusetts. The AG’s Office also protects employees from exploitation and wage theft through community education and strong partnerships with workers’ advocacy and community groups.
The brief was led by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul. Joining AG Healey and AG Raoul in filing the amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont.