Amazon ordered to pay $500K in California for 'concealing COVID-19 case numbers'

California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) on Monday announced that the state would require Amazon to pay $500,000 after the company "failed to adequately notify warehouse workers and local health agencies of COVID-19 case numbers."

The settlement, which was filed in California Superior Court, is the first of its kind under the state's “right-to-know” law.

The state says Amazon "concealed COVID-19 case numbers" and often kept workers and health agencies "in the dark and unable to effectively track the spread of the virus," according to a statement from Bonta's office. 

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Under the law, employers must notify workers of COVID-19 cases at their workplaces in addition to providing information about pandemic-related benefits, protections and safety plans. The law also requires that cases be reported to local health agencies. 

In addition to the $500,000, which will go toward enforcing California's consumer protection laws, Amazon will also change its COVID-19 notification system. The judgment, however, is still subject to court approval, the statement said.

"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," Bonta said. 

"Bottom line: Californians have a right to know about potential exposures to the coronavirus to protect themselves, their families, and their communities," he added.

A spokesperson for Amazon said they were glad that "no substantive issues" were found and noted that the ruling was exclusively related to 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," Barbara Agrait, a spokesperson for Amazon, said in a statement to The Hill adding that the company had "worked hard from the beginning of the pandemic to keep our employees safe and deliver for our customers." 

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Agrait also noted that the decision was exclusively in reference to a reporting technicality under California law and said that there was no change to or allegations of problems with Amazon's protocol for informing employees of potential COVID-19 exposure.

Updated at 11:03 a.m.