Amazon cuts a relatively tiny check to disappear claims it broke the law by withholding COVID-19 data from staff

Settlement is little more than a minor cost-of-business expense


Amazon will cough up $500,000 to settle a case brought by California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta for concealing from health agencies and its own staff the number of COVID-19 cases among its workers.

Bonta filed a complaint on behalf of the US West Coast state, claiming the e-commerce giant had broken California’s Assembly Bill 685. The 2020 law, passed with the support of Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes, requires employers to report COVID-19 case numbers within 48 hours to public health agencies and to make that data available to its employees with a day.

Amazon failed to disclose this vital COVID-19 data during the pandemic, according to the AG's complaint [PDF]. Although the biz issued warnings that workers faced potential exposure to the coronavirus in its facilities, it failed to share case numbers nor any information about sick leave as required by California’s labor laws, Bonta said.

The online souk and cloud behemoth agreed to hand over $500,000, which is to be used by Cali for the "enforcement of consumer protection laws," and basically make the whole affair disappear.

The settlement is subject to court approval [PDF]. In addition Amazon must accurately monitor and disclose COVID-19 infection data to its workers, especially as the biz gears up for an incoming surge of online orders and deliveries during the holiday season.

“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 in a statement on Monday.

“That’s why California law requires employers to notify workers of potential workplace exposures and to report outbreaks to local health agencies. Today’s first-of-its-kind judgment will help ensure Amazon meets that requirement for its tens of thousands of warehouse workers across California.

“Bottom line: Californians have a right to know about potential exposures to the coronavirus to protect themselves, their families, and their communities. I'm grateful to Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes for her leadership in spearheading AB 685 to stand up for California's essential workers during these unprecedented times. This judgment sends a clear message that businesses must comply with this important law. It helps protect us all.”

The “right-to-know” law was effective starting from January 1, 2021, and is expected to last until January 1, 2023. Some 150,000 employees work across Amazon’s fulfillment centers in California.

The Register has asked Amazon for comment. ®

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021