California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Monday filed a petition in Sacramento County Superior Court asking the court to enforce subpoenas for data on Amazon’s workplace COVID-19 protocols.
The 13-page petition claims that Amazon has failed to adequately comply with a set of investigative subpoenas issued by the California Department of Justice on Aug. 19 seeking specific details about the company’s COVID-19 prevention efforts, including sick leave policies and cleaning procedures, as well as data on the number of infections and deaths at Amazon’s California facilities.
The state issued the subpoenas after reports over the summer of COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths at Amazon fulfillment centers in Southern California. The subpoenas followed a letter Becerra sent to the company in May seeking information on working conditions at its facilities in light of the pandemic. According to Monday’s petition, Amazon at first failed to respond to the letter, then claimed it had been lost internally and provided only “limited documents” in response.
Between August and October, the petition alleges, Amazon had responded to only two out of 56 total investigative interrogatories. The state then agreed to narrow the scope of its request from approximately 150 California facilities to just seven, but the company still failed to respond to numerous document requests and interrogatories, the petition claims.
“The slow drip of information from Amazon is an insufficient response,” the petition states. “Absent the requested data, the Attorney General is unable to adequately determine if Amazon is complying with applicable California law to protect its workers from COVID-19.”
It’s especially critical to have COVID-19 workplace data for Amazon facilities, the petition claims, because the company has hired thousands of additional seasonal workers in California since the summer’s outbreaks at its fulfillment centers.
“Amazon has made billions during this pandemic relying on the labor of essential workers. Their workers get the job done while putting themselves at risk,” Becerra said in a statement. “It’s critical to know if these workers are receiving the protections on the job that they are entitled to under the law.”
An Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the company is “puzzled by the Attorney General’s sudden rush to court because we’ve been working cooperatively for months and their claims of noncompliance with their demands don’t line up with the facts.”
“The bottom line is that we’re 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, and encourage anyone to compare our speed and actions in this area to any other major employer,” the spokesperson said.
The petition asks the court to order Amazon to provide full responses to the investigative interrogatories, and to require the company to ensure that the California Attorney General may “effectively and expeditiously” evaluate Amazon’s compliance with applicable California law and “ensure worker safety amidst the further spread of COVID-19.”
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