Amazon, the nation’s largest online retailer, reached a settlement with California’s attorney general Monday that will make sure the company lets its workers in warehouses know within 48 hours when an associate tests positive for COVID-19.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a press release Monday that the company would end its "harmful labor practices" that concealed COVID-19 case numbers from workers and provide information on how it is protecting employees in the workplace as part of a stipulated judgement.
"As our nation continues to battle the pandemic, it is absolutely critical that businesses do their part to protect workers now — and especially during this holiday season," Bonta said in the release. "That’s why California law requires employers to notify workers of potential workplace exposures and to report outbreaks to local health agencies. Today’s first-of-its-kind judgment will help ensure Amazon meets that requirement for its tens of thousands of warehouse workers across California. Bottom line: Californians have a right to know about potential exposures to the coronavirus to protect themselves, their families, and their communities. I'm grateful to Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes for her leadership in spearheading AB 685 to stand up for California's essential workers during these unprecedented times. This judgment sends a clear message that businesses must comply with this important law. It helps protect us all."
The company will also pay $500,000 to the state to help enforcement of consumer protection laws, the release said.
In a statement to CNBC, company spokesperson Barbara Agrait said that there is "no change" in the company’s protocols regarding notifying employees about new COVID-19 cases, and that there are no allegations of problems to the system.
"We’re glad to have this resolved and to see that the AG found no substantive issues with the safety measures in our buildings," Agrait said, according to CNBC.
The agreement comes after the state enacted a more stringent "right to know" law, Assembly Bill 685, requiring stricter reporting of new cases.
"AB 685 is an example of how we can come together when a problem emerges to protect workers and hold employers accountable," the bill’s author, Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gomez Reyes, said in the release. "When this bill was being considered in the State Legislature and subsequent to it becoming law, 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. 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."
The judgement is still awaiting the approval of the court.
Amazon employs millions of people around the world and has a network of thousands of distribution warehouses nationwide.
According to the company, each "fulfilment center" employs around 1,000 people.
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