SEATTLE -- Amazon illegally retaliated against two of its most prominent internal critics when it fired them last year, the National Labor Relations Board has determined.
The employees, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, had publicly pushed the company to reduce its impact on climate change and address concerns about its warehouse workers.
The agency told Cunningham and Costa that it would accuse Amazon of unfair labor practices if the company did not settle the case, according to correspondence that Cunningham shared with The New York Times.
"It's a moral victory and really shows that we are on the right side of history and the right side of the law," Cunningham said.
"We support every employee's right to criticize their employer's working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against our internal policies, all of which are lawful," said Jaci Anderson, an Amazon spokeswoman. "We terminated these employees not for talking publicly about working conditions, safety or sustainability but, rather, for repeatedly violating internal policies."
Costa and Cunningham, who worked at Amazon's Seattle headquarters, were part of a small group of employees who wanted the company to do more to address its effect on climate change. The group got more than 8,700 colleagues to support its efforts.
After Amazon told them that they had violated its external communications policy by speaking publicly about the business, their group organized 400 employees to also speak out, purposely violating the policy to make a point.
They also began raising concerns about safety in Amazon's warehouses at the start of the pandemic. Amazon fired Costa and Cunningham in April 2020.
Separately, Tesla is asking an appeals court to set aside a federal agency's order that a Twitter post discouraging union organizing be deleted from Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk's account.
The National Labor Relations Board found that a May 2018 tweet by Musk unlawfully threatened employees with the loss of stock options if they decided to be represented by a union. The board ordered that the post be deleted.
Among other things, the lengthy March 25 board ruling also orders Tesla to reinstate an employee who was fired for union-organizing activity and to give him back pay. The ruling also says Tesla must post a notice addressing unfair labor practices at the Fremont, California, plant, where the United Auto Workers had been trying to organize 10,000 workers.
Information for this article was contributed by Karen Weise of The New York Times and by staff members of The Associated Press.