Amazon agreed to pay a $ 500,000 fine and be monitored by California officials after the state attorney general said the company failed to “adequately notify” workers and health authorities about the new Covid-19 cases.
Amazon employs about 150,000 people in California, most of them in 100 “fulfillment centers,” department stores where orders are packed and shipped. The deal, which must be approved by a judge, requires the Seattle-based retailer to notify its workers within one day of new coronavirus cases at their workplaces.
Amazon also agreed to notify local health agencies of new virus cases within 48 hours and will stop issuing notices that Rob Bonta, The California attorney general said employees are not being adequately informed about Amazon’s safety and sanitation plan and worker rights related to the pandemic.
“As the company enjoyed historic and booming sales with its share price doubling, Amazon failed to adequately notify warehouse workers and local health agencies of Covid case numbers, often leading to them. it leaves them unable to effectively track the spread of the virus, “Bonta told reporters in San Francisco at an event that took place across the street from an Amazon warehouse.
Bonta added: “This left many workers understandably terrified and powerless to make informed decisions to protect themselves and their loved ones,” such as getting tested for the virus, staying home, or self-quarantining if they have been notified of possible exposure in work place. .
Bonta said the sentence is the first of its kind in the US and complies with a state “right to know” law that took effect last year.
Amazon spokeswoman Barbara Agrait said in a statement that the company was “pleased that this was resolved and to see that the AG found no substantial problems with the security measures in our buildings.”
Xavier Becerra, the former California attorney general who now heads the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, asked a judge last December to order Amazon to comply with subpoenas his office issued nearly four months earlier as part. of his research on how the company was protecting workers. of the coronavirus in its facilities.
It is not known how many Amazon employees have been exposed to the virus at work during the course of the pandemic. In October 2020, the company revealed that nearly 20,000 of its front-line American workers had tested positive or were presumed infected.
The ruling, which applies only in California, requires the company to allow the attorney general’s office to monitor its virus notifications for one year and pay the half-million dollar settlement that will go towards law enforcement. state consumer protection.
California’s “right-to-know” law requires employers to notify employees of coronavirus cases in their workplaces, inform workers of protections, benefits, sanitation plans, and safety related to the pandemic, and report cases to local health agencies.
The deal came as Amazon geared up for the Christmas crush of package deliveries. Bonta said compliance is particularly important as the state prepares for another possible winter spike in cases where people gather indoors for the holidays.
This year, California also became the first state to ban large retailers from firing warehouse workers for lack of quotas that interfere with breaks and bathing.
That law prohibits Amazon and similar companies from disciplining workers for following health and safety laws, and allows employees to sue to suspend unsafe quotas or reverse retaliation.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism