In Nationwide First, Attorney General Bonta Secures Judgment Requiring Amazon to Comply with “Right-to-Know” Law to Help Protect Workers Against COVID-19
Judgment requires Amazon to end harmful labor practices concealing COVID-19 case numbers from workers and to provide key information on existing workplace protections
SAN FRANCISCO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced a first-of-its-kind stipulated judgment requiring Amazon to end harmful labor practices that concealed COVID-19 case numbers from workers and to provide key information on workplace protections in line with California’s “right-to-know” law, Assembly Bill 685 (AB 685) authored by Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes. Throughout the pandemic, Amazon, as asserted in the complaint, failed to adequately notify warehouse workers and local health agencies of COVID-19 case numbers, often leaving them in the dark and unable to effectively track the spread of the virus. As part of the stipulated judgment, Amazon will modify its COVID-19 notifications to workers and local health agencies, submit to monitoring regarding its COVID-19 notifications, and pay $500,000 toward further enforcement of California’s consumer protection laws.
“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,” said Attorney General Bonta. “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.”
“AB 685 is an example of how we can come together when a problem emerges to protect workers and hold employers accountable,” said Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes. “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.”
Enacted as part of the state’s broad efforts to protect the public from the coronavirus, AB 685 requires employers to notify workers of COVID-19 cases at their worksites, provide employees with information on COVID-19-related benefits and protections, share their disinfection and safety plan, and report COVID-19 cases to local health agencies. AB 685, as enacted under California Labor Code section 6409.6, works to safeguard the right of California workers to make informed decisions on whether to take additional precautions — like seeking out testing, quarantining, or staying home — after being notified of a potential workplace exposure. Fundamentally, the law aims to ensure that workers across the state have the tools they need to protect their health and, ultimately, the health of their communities.
The judgment announced today, which is subject to court approval, arrives at a crucial time for workers as Amazon’s peak holiday season approaches. Specifically, the judgment requires that Amazon update COVID-19 notification policies and take specific actions to help protect workers, including by:
- Issuing notifications to its tens of thousands of warehouse workers that identify, within one day, the exact number of new COVID-19 cases in their workplaces;
- Ending its practice of issuing notifications that inadequately inform workers of the company’s disinfection and safety plan and employees’ COVID-19-related rights;
- Notifying local health agencies of COVID-19 cases within 48 hours so they can intervene in potential workplace outbreaks;
- Submitting to monitoring by the Office of the Attorney General regarding its COVID-19 notifications; and
- Paying $500,000 towards enforcement of California’s consumer protection laws.