Amazon will pay a $500,000 settlement related to California's "right-to-know" labor law after state regulators alleged the retail giant failed to adequately notify warehouse workers and local health agencies of COVID-19 case numbers.
"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," California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement. "That’s why California law requires employers to notify workers of potential workplace exposures and to report outbreaks to local health agencies."
Bonta said the judgement, which remains subject to court approval, will help ensure Amazon meets the state's requirement for workers.
"Bottom line: Californians have a right to know about potential exposures to the coronavirus to protect themselves, their families, and their communities," Bonta added. "This judgment sends a clear message that businesses must comply with this important law. It helps protect us all."
California's so-called "right-to-know" law, AB 685, requires that employers notify workers of COVID-19 cases at their worksites, provide employees with information on coronavirus-related benefits and protections, share their disinfection and safety plans and report COVID-19 cases to local health agencies.
The settlement requires Amazon to update COVID-19 notification policies and take further specific actions to help workers, according to Bonta's office. It also requires Amazon to notify its tens of thousands of warehouse workers in California of new COVID-19 cases in their workplace and pay $500,000 toward enforcement of California's consumer protection laws.
Barbara Agrait, an Amazon spokesperson, told ABC News the settlement is solely related to a technicality specific to California state law involving employee coronavirus-related notifications. She said no problems were identified with Amazon's protocols for notifying employees who might have been in close contact with an affected individual.
"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 in a statement. "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."
She added that Amazon remains focused on being transparent with local health authorities. Moreover, Agrait said Amazon supports worker vaccinations and the company has hosted more than 1,800 free on-site vaccination events at Amazon facilities across the U.S.
Last October, Amazon released an analysis of data on all 1,372,000 Amazon and Whole Foods Market frontline employees across the U.S. employed from March 1 to Sept. 19, 2020. The company said that 19,816 employees had tested positive or been presumed positive for COVID-19 during that time.