California subpoenas Amazon over workers’ safety in Covid-19 pandemic

PTI Washington | Updated on December 15, 2020

State Attorney Genral demands info on working conditions, sick leaves, and potential retaliation taken against employees who raise safety concerns from the company

California’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, has requested a judge to order Amazon to comply with subpoenas his office issued nearly four months ago as part of an investigation into how the company protects workers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Becerra said on Monday that the online sales giant hasn’t provided enough information on its safety steps and the status of infections and deaths at its shipping facilities across California. The Attorney General is President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Health and Human Services Department; he’d be the first Latino in the post.

“We’re investigating because we got reports, information, complaints about conditions, incidents,” Becerra said. “We believe that it merits looking into Amazon’s protocols, practices, based on information that we have received.”

The court filing from Becerra lists media reports about three Amazon workers’ deaths but said the company mentioned none of them in its responses. It says he learned more about the company’s infection rate from its blog posts than from its subpoena responses.

The company did not respond to a request for comment left through an email provided for reporters. Amazon said in a statement to The Sacramento Bee that it is “a leader in providing Covid-19 safety measures for our employees - we’ve invested billions of dollars in equipment and technology, including building on-site testing for employees and providing personal protective equipment. We encourage anyone to compare our speed and actions in this area to any other major employer.”

Becerra wants a Sacramento County Superior Court judge to find that the company hasn’t given specific details on its Covid-19 prevention efforts in response to subpoenas issued August 19, including its sick leave policies and cleaning procedures. He also wants access to the company’s raw data on the number of infections and deaths at its facilities in California.

“We urgently need to know about complaints made by Amazon associates to the company about working conditions, potential retaliation taken against employees who raise these workplace safety concerns,” he said. He added, “We don’t have time to drag our feet ... our state finds itself in the thick of this pandemic.”

Becerra routinely declines to comment on ongoing investigations but called a virtual news conference to criticise Amazon for making billions of dollars during the pandemic as consumers increasingly turn to online purchases over brick-and-mortar stores — profits that he said are built on the labor of employees who put themselves at risk.

Published on December 15, 2020

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