Amazon has agreed to pay $500,000 to help enforce California’s consumer protection laws after the company was accused of concealing Covid-19 case numbers from its workers, officials said on Monday.
The judgment, which is subject to court approval, is the first of its kind nationwide and is in line with a California “right to know” law that was designed to keep workers safe during the pandemic, according to a news release from the attorney general’s office.
Under the arrangement, Amazon must also tell its warehouse workers within a day about the exact number of new Covid-19 cases in their workplaces, ensure that notifications adequately inform workers of the company’s disinfection and safety plans, tell health officials about new cases and submit to monitoring by the attorney general’s office regarding its Covid-19 notifications.
“We’re glad to have this resolved,” Barbara Agrait, a spokeswoman for Amazon, said in an emailed statement. She said the attorney general’s office “found no substantive issues with the safety measures in our buildings,” only with technical aspects of how the company communicated broadly with its workers.
“We’ve worked hard from the beginning of the pandemic to keep our employees safe and deliver for our customers — incurring more than $15 billion in costs to date — and we’ll keep doing that in months and years ahead,” Ms. Agrait said.
A complaint filed in Superior Court in Sacramento maintained that Amazon’s actions had prevented employees and the public from gaining full access to information regarding Covid-19 cases.
The state’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, said that such information was crucial for workers making difficult decisions regarding their health in the pandemic.
“Amazon’s practices led to workers not knowing if they had been potentially exposed to two, 20 or even 200 cases of Covid-19,” he said at a news conference on Monday. “This left many workers understandably terrified and powerless to make informed decisions to protect themselves and to protect their loved ones.”
“No corporation is too big to follow the law,” Mr. Bonta said. “This is a huge win for the safety and health of Amazon’s tens of thousands of warehouse workers, their families and our communities throughout this state.”
He said that the judgment sent a clear message that businesses must comply with the law, and that it was particularly important as the busy holiday season approached.