In California, Amazon will pay $500,000 and submit to state monitoring for failing to adequately notify warehouse workers and local health officials of COVID-19 outbreaks in the workplace.
Attorney General Rob Bonta said Monday a violation of state law that requires employers to notify workers of COVID-19 cases at their worksites and report them to local health agencies was committed by Amazon. The company’s actions, he said, often left them in the dark and unable to effectively track the spread of the virus.
“Bottom line: Californians have a right to know about potential exposures to the coronavirus to protect themselves, their families, and their communities,” Bonta told reporters outside an Amazon warehouse in San Francisco. “This judgment sends a clear message that businesses must comply with this important law.”
Subject to court approval, the stipulated judgment requires that Amazon update COVID-19 notification policies and take actions to help protect workers. This judgment may come as Amazon’s peak holiday season approaches and could potentially affect the workforce. The judgment requires Amazon to issue notifications to its tens of thousands of warehouse workers that identify within one day the exact number of new COVID-19 cases in their workplaces. The company also must notify local health agencies of COVID-19 cases within 48 hours.
Amazon agreed to submit to monitoring by the Attorney General’s office and pay $500,000 towards enforcement of California’s consumer protection laws.
State officials adopted California’s worker notification law, AB 685, by Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-San Bernardino, in response to complaints from workers at various companies that they weren’t given adequate information about workplace outbreaks and exposure to the potentially deadly virus. It was signed into law in September 2020.
“We heard the stories from across this state of employees who were not informed of COVID-19 exposures and had to work in conditions where safety from this highly contagious disease was an afterthought,” Reyes said in a statement. She said she was happy to see the attorney general “demanding accountability and transparency from employers who have been unwilling to follow a straightforward law.”
Amazon’s COVID-19 blog says the company provided more than $2.5 billion in bonuses and incentives for its workers in 2020, and established a $25 million relief fund for partners, such as delivery drivers, and seasonal associates facing financial hardship or quarantine.
Amazon reported in October 2020 that nearly 20,000 of its U.S. workers had tested or been presumed positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, but the company said its employee infection rate was below that of the general U.S. population as a whole. The company chose to disclose this information amid pressure from workers and labor groups calling for the company to divulge the COVID-19 numbers.