Amazon Settlements California COVID Notification Dispute

The state attorney general said on Monday that Amazon has agreed to pay $ 500,000 and be monitored by California authorities to make sure it properly notifies its employees of new coronavirus cases.

Amazon employs about 150,000 people in California, most of whom work in 100 “fulfillment centers” – huge warehouses where orders are packed and dispatched. The agreement, which must be approved by a judge, requires a Seattle-based retailer to notify its workers during the day of new cases of coronavirus in their workplaces.

Amazon also agreed to notify local health agencies of new cases of the virus within 48 hours and will stop issuing notifications that Attorney General Rob Bont said do not adequately inform employees about Amazon’s safety and disinfection plan and workers’ rights related to the pandemic.

“As the company enjoyed a boom and historic doubling in share price sales, Amazon was unable to properly notify warehouse workers and local healthcare facilities of the number of COVID-19 cases, often leaving 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 the Amazon warehouse.

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Bonta added: “This has resulted in many workers understandably frightened and powerless to make informed decisions to protect themselves and their loved ones,” such as being tested for the virus, staying at home, or quarantining if notified of potential workplace exposure.

Amazon spokeswoman Barbara Agright said in a statement that the company is “pleased that this issue has been resolved and that AG has not found significant security issues in our buildings.”

Former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who currently heads the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, asked a judge last December to order Amazon to comply with the subpoenas issued by his office nearly four months ago as part of an investigation into how the company is protecting workers from the coronavirus on its objects.

The state attorney general’s office first opened an investigation in a July 2020 statement in the San Francisco Supreme Court, in which an employee accused the company of insufficient efforts to protect staff.

It is unknown how many Amazon employees were exposed to the virus at work during the pandemic. In October 2020, the company reported that nearly 20,000 of its frontline employees in the United States tested positive or were suspected of being infected.

The ruling, which only applies in California, requires the company to allow prosecutors to monitor its virus notifications for a year and pay half a million dollars to help ensure compliance with state consumer protection laws.

Bonta said the decision is the first of its kind in the United States and is in line with the state’s “right to know” law that went into effect last year. The clause was signed Friday, and the complaint and ruling were filed with the Sacramento County Superior Court on Monday.

California law, sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gomez Reyes, requires employers to notify employees of coronavirus cases in their workplaces, inform workers about the protections, benefits, disinfection and safety plans associated with the pandemic, and report cases to local health authorities. …

Gomez Reyes said her bill was passed after lawmakers heard stories of workers who were not told they might have been exposed. Since then, many Californian companies have complied, she said, but some “found loopholes and they either failed or chose not to abide by the law.”

The deal was struck as Amazon prepares for a holiday package cut. Bonta said compliance is especially important as the state prepares for another possible winter spike in cases where people gather indoors for the holidays.

California this year also became the first state to ban large retailers from laying off warehouse workers for not meeting quotas that interfere with toilet and recreational use.

The law prohibits Amazon and similar companies from punishing workers for complying with health and safety laws and allows employees to take legal action to suspend unsafe quotas or remove retaliatory measures.

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