Amazon has reached a settlement with California. As part of the settlement, it has agreed to pay USD 500,000. This is over claims that the e-commerce giant failed to adequately notify local health agencies as well as its employees working in a warehouse about the number of Covid-19 cases. It was claimed that the retail giant concealed these information. California’s attorney general Rob Bonta said that workers were left ‘terrified and powerless’. The Attorney General said that the company violated the ‘right to know’ law of the state.
The law requires all the companies operating in California to inform workers about the number of coronavirus cases at their worksite. “By not informing warehouse workers as well as local health agencies about the number of cases at the worksite, they were left in the dark. Also, it creates hurdles in effectively tracking the spread of the highly infectious virus. As we continue to battle against the coronavirus pandemic, it is very crucial that businesses do their part to protect workers. Especially, during the upcoming holiday season,” Bonta said. However, the retail giant has said that the law did not require it to share the total number of cases with employees.
The company has not admitted wrongdoing while agreeing to the settlement. But it will pay USD 500,000 as part of the settlement. It must be noted that Amazon has tens of thousands of warehouse workers in the state. Under the settlement, Amazon has agreed to inform local health authorities about new cases of Covid within 48 hours of it being reported. But the agreement is still subject to approval from the court. This is the first time when a fine related to California’s Covid ‘right to now’ (AB 685) legislation has been imposed on a company.
The legislation was passed in response to the coronavirus pandemic last year. The legislation makes it mandatory for firms to inform workers promptly about any potential exposure to Covid at the work sites. It also asks companies to tell workers about pandemic-related protections, safety plans, and disinfection. Amazon spokesperson Barbara Agrait said that Amazon never broke laws related to the Covid-19 protocol. “We have been prompt in informing our workers about any exposures to cases of the coronavirus.
The company even did contract tracing. We want to emphasize that the California law had no specific mention that we are required to give numbers in those notifications. But we are glad that no substantive issues related to safety protocol have been pointed out,” she said. The development comes as the retail giant is preparing for the holiday season. Retail spending in the United States is already higher this time in comparison to last year.
This includes online spending. This is despite the fact that there have been huge supply chain problems and rising inflation. The number of cases is expected to rise as people will start gathering for Thanksgiving. It is pertinent to mention that Amazon faced criticism through the course of the pandemic. It faced criticism from delivery and warehouse workers for inadequate contact tracing and case notification protocols. Last year, a probe was opened by then-California AG into the company’s treatment of warehouse workers during the pandemic.
In October last year, Amazon was fined for coronavirus safety violations at two warehouses in the state. The citation said that Amazon did not inform delivery drivers about confirmed cases at one of the sites. The company at that time had said that it believed coronavirus safety measures were more than adequate. There are concerns related to new strains of Covid-19. It has been suggested that these new and more dangerous strains can cause a third wave.