California Targets Amazon Over Virus Worker Safety Protocols

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Monday he’s escalating efforts to force Inc. to cooperate with an ongoing probe of worker safety conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Becerra said Amazon hasn’t fully complied with his office’s demand for information from four months ago and that California is now asking a judge to order cooperation with the state’s investigation into the company’s policies and protocols.

“We will try to do this informally, cooperatively, but one way or the other we will get the information we need,” Becerra said during a virtual press conference.

Amazon countered that it’s been cooperating all along.

“We’re 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,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”

Amazon has faced multiple complaints from warehouse workers that they haven’t been adequately protected from exposure to Covid-19. A federal judge in New York last month dismissed one such complaint, ruling that workers’ allegations should have been brought to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration instead.

The California attorney general’s probe was initially revealed in July, along with separate investigations by the San Francisco Department of Public Health and California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Becerra declined to comment Monday on the status of probes by other agencies.

The state attorney general said the petition filed by his office in Sacramento state court seeks specific information sought from Amazon in an August subpoena that the company so far has failed to disclose.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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