Amazon executive on defense after comments about warehouse protest leader

Credit: REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

April 2 (Reuters) - Inc's AMZN.O general counsel on Thursday said his emotions clouded his judgment when he wrote meeting notes in which he allegedly outlined a public relations strategy against a protest organizer and questioned the employee's intelligence.

Amazon declined to confirm the authenticity of the notes, which Vice News reported were from a daily meeting with the company's Chief Executive Jeff Bezos and senior leadership team.

David Zapolsky, the company's secretary and top lawyer, allegedly wrote that a worker who criticized Amazon's warehouse operation during the coronavirus pandemic was "not smart, or articulate" and suggested Amazon might "make him the face of the entire union/organizing movement."

Amazon and other companies have provided vital deliveries as nearly 90% of the United States has been told by their governments to stay home to slow the spread of coronavirus. However, some employees have protested, saying the companies are not doing enough to protect their health.

Amazon said it fired the worker, Christian Smalls, after he came to the company's Staten Island, New York warehouse for a demonstration Monday in violation of his paid quarantine. Smalls, who Amazon said was in contact with a diagnosed coronavirus patient, did not immediately return a request for comment.

In a statement shared by Amazon, Zapolsky said, "I was frustrated and upset that an Amazon employee would endanger the health and safety of other Amazonians by repeatedly returning to the premises after having been warned to quarantine himself after exposure to virus COVID-19. I let my emotions draft my words and get the better of me."

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(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco and Krystal Hu in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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