A California court has approved a settlement between the state attorney general’s office and Amazon, over claims that the company concealed information from workers and local health agencies about coronavirus infections in its warehouses.
A “right-to-know” law that was passed in September 2020 requires companies in the state to keep workers informed about the spread of the virus among the workforce, and to provide safety plans as well as COVID-related benefits to their employees. According to California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Amazon failed to let tens of thousands of workers in its warehouses know how many of their co-workers were infected with the virus.
As part of the settlement, Amazon will pay California a sum of $500,000, which will help the state enforce consumer protection laws. The company will also modify its notification systems to inform workers about potential exposures to the virus, and will submit to monitoring from the attorney general’s office.
The settlement, which was filed and approved within the California Superior Court in Sacramento, allows Amazon to deny any wrongdoing. In a statement from the company, Amazon said that the attorney general “found no substantive issues with the safety measures in our buildings,” and that the settlement simply resolves a “technicality” that they will now abide by.
However, a press release from Bonta’s office implied that the company had acted improperly, describing Amazon’s failure to follow the year-old law as “harmful” to its workers.
“Californians have a right to know about potential exposures to the coronavirus to protect themselves, their families, and their communities,” Bonta said in a statement.
Amazon has frequently faced criticism for its poor treatment of workers. At the beginning of the pandemic, the company faced widespread backlash after it was revealed that workers were having to urinate and defecate in delivery trucks in order to meet productivity demands.
Previously, the company had publicly and vehemently denied media reports that this ever took place, implying that workers were lying about the matter — but internal documents uncovered by The Intercept in March 2020 contradicted the company’s claims, and made clear that Amazon was aware of the situation.
The company is also being accused of having poor workplace standards in other parts of the country. Amazon is currently embroiled in a lawsuit against New York State Attorney General Letitia James, attempting to block her office from bringing charges against them over workplace safety concerns at two of the warehouses in New York City.