Woman says Amazon.com fired her because she got 'long COVID' - lawsuit

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former Amazon.com Inc employee sued the online retailer on Monday, saying it wrongly fired her and demanded she repay wages after she contracted "long COVID."

Brittany Hope, 29, a former brand manager for Amazon's (AMZN) fashion line The Drop in Manhattan, is seeking damages for alleged violations of federal, state and New York City disability laws.

The Brooklyn resident said she was hospitalized after being diagnosed with the flu on Feb. 3, 2020, four months after being hired, and a few weeks before the coronavirus started taking hold in the United States.

Hope said she "later realized" she had been "seriously ill with COVID and long COVID."

The complaint filed in Manhattan federal court does not say whether Hope was diagnosed with COVID-19. It said Hope also complained to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Amazon (AMZN) did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Hope said that after the pandemic took hold and she began working 17-hour days, she began having suicidal thoughts and her physical health deteriorated.

She said her May 12, 2020 request for medical leave caused Amazon (AMZN) to cut off access to her work email and the company's disability and leave portal.

She said Amazon (AMZN) fired her two months later for "job abandonment" and billed her $12,273 for alleged overpayment of wages.

"Hope could not navigate the company's leave process because of her severe long COVID symptoms," the complaint said.

Her failure to receive reasonable accommodations "is familiar to many Americans [and] similar to that of other Amazon (AMZN) employees who have found it difficult to balance the challenges to their own wellbeing against the demands of their jobs," Hope's lawyer Alex Berke said in a statement.

Amazon (AMZN), the second-largest U.S. private employer, has long been criticized by labor advocates over how it treats workers, who labor unions are trying to organize at some facilities.

The Seattle-based company says it offers great benefits and pay, and sets fair goals for its employees.

The case is Hope v Amazon.com Services LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 22-03537.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Richard Pullin)

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