A semi-truck transforms into an Amazon fulfillment center in Eastvale, Calif., November 12, 2020.
Watchara Phomicinda / The Orange County Register via AP)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Amazon has agreed to pay $ 500,000 and be monitored by California officials to ensure it properly informs its employees of new coronavirus cases, the attorney general of the United States said Monday on Monday. State.
Amazon employs around 150,000 people in California, most in 100 “fulfillment centers” – sprawling warehouses where orders are packed and shipped. The deal, which must be approved by a judge, requires the Seattle-based retailer to notify its employees within the day of new cases of coronavirus in their workplace.
Amazon has also agreed to notify local health agencies of new virus cases within 48 hours and will stop posting notices that Attorney General Rob Bonta says do not properly educate employees about the safety and disinfection plan. Amazon and workers’ rights related to the pandemic.
As the company benefited from booming and historic sales with the doubling of its share price, Amazon failed to adequately notify warehouse workers and local health agencies 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 in front of an Amazon warehouse.
Bonta added: “It has left many workers terrified and powerless to make informed decisions to protect themselves and their loved ones,” such as getting tested for the virus, staying at home, or quarantining themselves if they have been. informed of potential workplace exposure.
Amazon spokeswoman Barbara Agrait said in a statement that the company was “happy to have resolved this issue and to see that the AG found no substantive issues with the security measures in our buildings “.
Former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who now heads the US Department of Health and Human Services, last December asked a judge to order Amazon to comply with subpoenas issued by his office near four months earlier as part of its investigation into how the company was protecting workers from the coronavirus at its facilities.
The state attorney general’s office first disclosed the investigation in a July 2020 case in a San Francisco Superior Court case in which an employee accused the company of not doing enough to protect the staff.
It is not known how many Amazon employees have been exposed to the virus at work during the pandemic. In October 2020, the company revealed that nearly 20,000 of its frontline U.S. workers had tested positive or were suspected to be infected.
The ruling, which only applies to 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 be used. enforce state laws on consumer protection.
Bonta said the judgment is the first of its kind in the United States and complies with a state law of the “right to know” which took effect last year. The stipulation was signed on Friday and the two complaint and stipulation were filed Monday in Sacramento County Superior Court.
California law, sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes, requires employers to notify employees of coronavirus cases in their workplaces, educate workers about protections, benefits, disinfection plans, and safety related to the pandemic and reporting cases to local health agencies.
Gómez Reyes said his bill was enacted after lawmakers heard stories of workers who were not told they might have been exposed. Many California companies have since complied, she said, but some “found loopholes and they either failed or chose not to comply.”
The deal came as Amazon braces for the crash in package deliveries over the holidays. Bonta said compliance is especially important as the state braces for another possible winter surge in case people congregate inside for the holidays.
This year, California also became the first state to ban large retailers from firing warehouse workers for missing quotas that interfere with restrooms and breaks.
This law Prohibits Amazon and similar companies from disciplining workers for following health and safety laws, and allows employees to sue to suspend dangerous quotas or reverse retaliation.