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California Fines Amazon For ‘Concealing’ COVID-19 Cases Among Workers

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Ailan Evans Tech Reporter
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Amazon was ordered to pay $500,000 by California authorities Monday as part of a settlement judgment over claims the company failed to adequately notify workers and health agencies of its COVID-19 case numbers.

Democratic California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a complaint against Amazon on behalf of Californians on Friday alleging that the tech giant failed to follow California’s “right-to-know” law requiring employers to notify workers and authorities of COVID-19 case numbers. Bonta argued that Amazon’s actions prevented the public from fully accessing COVID-19 information, and sought $2,500 for each violation of the relevant law.

The Sacramento Superior Court handed down a stipulated judgement Monday describing a $500,000 “settlement amount” Amazon agreed to pay within 30 days and requiring the tech giant to change how it notifies workers and health agencies of COVID-19 cases and to submit to monitoring regarding its COVID-19 notifications. (RELATED: Lawmakers Say Amazon ‘Misled’ And ‘May Have Lied’ To Congress)

“California law requires employers to notify workers of potential workplace exposures and to report outbreaks to local health agencies,” Bonta said in a statement, characterizing Amazon’s alleged violations as “concealing” COVID-19 cases. “Today’s first-of-its-kind judgment will help ensure Amazon meets that requirement for its tens of thousands of warehouse workers across California.”

Amazon employees work on Feb. 5, 2019 at a New York City warehouse. (Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)

Amazon employees work on Feb. 5, 2019 at a New York City warehouse. (Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)

When reached for comment, Amazon spokeswoman Barbara Agrait told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the company did not view the judgment as an indictment of its safety policies because the court’s judgement related to Amazon’s compliance with a specific California law.

“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. “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.”

The specific law Amazon allegedly violated, Assembly Bill 685, was authored by California Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes, and it requires employers to notify workers and local health agencies of certain COVID-19 related information.

“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,” Reyes said in the statement.  “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.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect additional information from Amazon.

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