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California Coronavirus Litigation—Amazon Evades Attorney General: A TimeLine

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Coronavirus litigation in California includes a lawsuit filed against Amazon alleging it refused to comply with COVID-19 safety and potential outbreaks; instead it has provided the Attorney General a “slow drip of information”.

Sacramento, CACalifornia's Attorney General slapped a lawsuit on Amazon, alleging the company refused to provide information about its coronavirus safety protocols and potential outbreaks, adding to the wave of coronavirus litigation nationwide and violating the California labor code.

Amazon Won’t Comply with COVID-19 Information

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in December 2020 slapped Amazon with a lawsuit (petition) alleging it refused to provide information about its coronavirus safety protocols and potential outbreaks. The petition stems from the Attorney General’s ongoing investigation into Amazon’s compliance with California law and the spread of COVID-19.

Amazon’s “Slow Drip of Information” TimeLine

March 4, 2020:  Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency due to the pandemic and the first inquiry is initiated into Amazon’s working conditions.

Mid -Late April, 2020: Two Amazon employees died from COVID-19: A Tracy, California fulfillment center employee and an operations manager at the Hawthorne, California facility.

May 11, 2020: The Attorney General sent a letter to Amazon seeking information related to working conditions at its California facilities in light of the unique and potentially dangerous working conditions connected with COVID-19. Amazon is to provide its response no later than May 22, 2020.

May 26, 2020:  No response by Amazon, the Attorney General sent a follow-up email renewing his requests.

May 28, 2020: Amazon stated that the Attorney General’s letter had been lost internally and agreed that it would provide the written policies requested as well as other documents no later than the following week.

Late May, 2020: Amazon made representations in proceedings in San Francisco Superior Court intimating that the Attorney General had received sufficient information related to his requests, and at least with respect to one California Amazon facility, had found no basis to shut down its operations for violations of California law.

June 12, 2020: Amazon sent the Attorney General its documents that contained only a single reference to COVID-19, specifically an IIPP policy that would be modified in light of COVID-19. Amazon failed to respond the question of  how many confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases had been recorded by the company at its California facilities.

July 23, 2020: The Attorney General responded to these misleading representations in both a letter brief to the Court and via a limited appearance at a virtual hearing. Attorney General requested that Amazon provide its responses within 21 days of receipt of the requests.

August 19, 2020: The California Department of Justice issued investigative subpoenas seeking specific details about the nature and extent of Amazon’s coronavirus prevention efforts, including with regard to sick leave policies and cleaning procedures, as well as raw data on the number of infections and deaths at their California facilities.

October 1, 2020: Amazon released a blog post that detailed infection rates at its U.S. facilities, including state specific information that had been requested but not yet produced to the Attorney General.

Late October, 2020: The Attorney General sent another letter to Amazon, including queries seeking to clarify information related to the small amount of imprecise information produced, as well as a demand that Amazon provide full responses to the State’s Investigative Interrogatories and Subpoena for Documents with respect to seven California Amazon facilities located across the State. Responses were to be provided no later than November 25, 2020.

November 25, 2020: Amazon failed to comply with the Attorney General’s request, again providing incomplete responses and documents.

December 7, 2020: A further demand letter provided Amazon with a final opportunity to comply with the Attorney General’s requests. The letter further narrowed the information sought from Amazon and provided the company until December 10, 2020, to comply.

To date, Amazon has failed to adequately respond to the Attorney General and has been unwilling to provide to the California Department of Justice the information needed to adequately demonstrate that it takes the health and well-being of its workers seriously.

Amazon has reported record sales and profits during the pandemic. According to the petition, “The slow drip of information from Amazon is an insufficient response.”

Amazon Called on to Protect its Workers

In March 2020 Attorney General Becerra also called on Amazon (and other companies) to “step up efforts to protect workers” by providing adequate sick leave and the following:
  • Two weeks (80 hours) of fully paid time off (up to $511 per day) to full-time employees to self-quarantine, seek a diagnosis or preventive care, or receive treatment for COVID-19;
  • Fully paid time off (up to $511 per day) to part time employees for the typical number of hours that they work in a typical two-week period to self-quarantine, seek a diagnosis or preventive care, or receive treatment for COVID-19; and
Twelve weeks of paid leave at two-thirds of their regular pay (up to $200 per day) to full-time and part-time employees to care for a family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in quarantine or to care for a child whose school has closed, or if their child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19.


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