An Amazon worker said the company reinstated a dangerous work productivity tool during Prime Day delivery rush (AMZN)

FILE PHOTO: A truck with the logo of Amazon Prime Delivery arrives at the Amazon logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, northern France, March 19, 2020.. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

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Amazon workers said the company’s rush to complete Prime Day orders caused it to bypass COVID-19 safety measures.

An employee at a Staten Island warehouse, who is already suing the company over unsafe work conditions, told a New York judge that the company reinstated a policy that allows managers to reprimand employees if they took time to sanitize workstations and wash hands. Bloomberg first reported the statements, made in a court filing. 

According to the latest court filing from plaintiff Derrick Palmer, four Staten Island warehouse workers have tested positive for the coronavirus since mid-September. 

Amazon tracks how productive warehouse workers are by giving them only a certain amount of “time off task” before they get penalized. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, workers who took extra time to wash their hands and sanitize shared equipment said they got reprimanded for not working enough. 

Though the company said it would not include time spent sanitizing and handwashing as “time off task,” Palmer said Staten Island employees were told in September that this suspension would be lifted “sometime in October 2020.” Notice was also given that managers would “no longer approve vacation requests for dates between October 13 and October 20, 2020” in preparation for what the employees said Amazon called a “busy fall.”

Rachael Lighty, an Amazon spokesperson, said the company reinstated the process to “coach” less than 5% of workers who are extreme outliers due to poor performance. Lighty said the company still gives additional time for employees to wash their hands and clean, and has invested “millions of dollars to provide a safe workspace.”

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After a Staten Island warehouse employee died of COVID-19, six fellow workers, including Palmer, sued the company for creating an unsafe work environment during the coronavirus pandemic. Warehouse workers also went on strike to demand the company shut down the warehouse for cleaning and provide hazard pay. The company later fired the organizer of the strike, Christian Smalls, who has since become a vocal critic of the company. 

Amazon has responded to the lawsuit by claiming it told workers in March they could wash their hands without fear of reprisal and they wouldn’t be penalized for not hitting quotas during the pandemic. 

Last week, California fined Amazon $1,870 for failing to implement workplace safety training in a warehouse and delivery center in the state. German warehouse workers went on strike Tuesday after the company scrapped coronavirus bonus payments, they said.

If you have information to share, you can email the author at aakhtar@businessinsider.com.

SEE ALSO: California just fined Amazon $1,870 for poor workplace safety during the coronavirus pandemic

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