: After ‘workers left in the dark,’ Amazon warehouse COVID-19 case notifications to be monitored by California AG
Amazon.com Inc. must pay $500,000 and change its practices related to notifying its workers and local health officials about COVID-19 cases at its warehouses, under a stipulated judgment called the first in the nation by California’s attorney general on Monday.
The giant tech and retail company “left workers in the dark” by failing to adequately notify them about coronavirus cases at its warehouses, Attorney General Ron Bonta said during a news conference Monday. Amazon’s COVID-19 notifications now will be monitored by the state AG’s office.
“No corporation is too big to follow the law,” Bonta said. “This is a huge win for the safety of thousands of warehouse workers, their families and our communities.” He noted that the announcement comes ahead of the holidays, which will be a busier time for Amazon’s warehouses.
The judgment, which is awaiting approval from Sacramento County Superior Court, would bring Amazon
into compliance with a state law on workplace notifications regarding COVID-19 exposure, an update of which became effective last month.
“AB 685 is an example of how we can come together when a problem emerges to protect workers and hold employers accountable,” California Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes, author of the bill, said in a statement. “I am happy that our Attorney General, Rob Bonta, is demanding accountability and transparency from employers who have been unwilling to follow a straightforward law designed to keep workers and their families safe in these challenging times.”
At the news conference, she said the judgment “sends a clear message to California workers that we will do what we can to keep them safe at work.”
Besides notifying workers of exposure to the virus and reporting cases to local health agencies, Assembly Bill 865 requires companies to share with their employees information on COVID-19-related benefits and protections, plus their disinfection and safety plans.
According to the state’s complaint, Amazon in numerous instances failed to notify workers within a day of their potential exposure to COVID-19, as required by law. The company’s notifications also failed to include information about benefits related to COVID-19, as well as its safety plans, the state said. Additionally, Amazon did not fully disclose to local health officials the names, occupations, worksites and other information for those who tested positive for the coronavirus as required by law, the complaint said.
The judgment targeting Amazon follows a first-in-the-nation bill signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom in September that also affects the giant retailer by making it illegal for companies to punish warehouse workers for failing to meet quotas because of lunch or restroom breaks.
The stipulated judgment notes that Amazon did not admit to wrongdoing or violating California law.
“We’re glad to have this resolved,” an Amazon spokeswoman said Monday. “We’ve worked hard from the beginning of the pandemic to keep our employees safe and deliver for our customers.”