Fifteen attorneys general sent a letter to Amazon yesterday asking the Seattle-based company to improve its “inadequate” paid sick leave policies amid the coronavirus crisis.
The letter, signed by attorneys general from states including New York, California, Washington and Pennsylvania, asks Amazon to “adopt a more generous paid leave policy” for its workers and independent contractors as well as for employees of its subsidiary Whole Foods.
As an essential retailer, Amazon remains open for business across even the states and localities with the most stringent coronavirus-related restrictions. The company, which has seen a boost in demand as panicked shoppers stock up on household products, currently offers two weeks of paid sick leave to employees who test positive for COVID-19 or are placed under quarantine. After the two-week period, workers can take additional leave without pay through the end of April. The e-commerce giant has also set aside $25 million to establish an emergency fund for certain delivery service partners.
“By limiting paid sick leave to only those employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have been placed into quarantine, the companies are placing their other employees, their customers, and the public at large at significant risk of exposure to COVID-19,” the attorneys general wrote. “The companies’ narrow criteria is particularly insufficient given the realities of the public health crisis, where the lack of access to COVID-19 testing has been widely reported. This would seriously undercut efforts to promote ‘social distancing’ in order to ‘flatten the curve’ of infections and to avoid overloading our already strained health care system.”
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An Amazon spokesperson told FN the company considers the health and safety of its workers to be a “top priority” amid the coronavirus crisis.
“As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, we remain laser focused on serving customers and ensuring the well-being and safety of our employees and those they care for. This is a top priority as they work to provide an essential service to our country,” the company said.
The attorneys general have asked Amazon to expand its two-week paid sick leave policy, as well as to provide 12 weeks of leave at a two-thirds pay rate to full-time and part-time employees who are unable to come into work because of the coronavirus. Additionally, the AGs are asking Amazon to set aside funds for independent contractors so they can receive a comparable benefit.
There have been reports of employees across at least nine U.S.-based Amazon warehouses testing positive for COVID-19. In some cases, the facilities were temporarily shut for deep cleaning, and workers who were known to be in contact with the infected employee (or employees) were sent home to quarantine.
As it seeks to keep up with coronavirus-related demand, Amazon announced last week that it would hire 100,000 additional employees, including delivery drivers and warehouse workers. The company is spending $350 million to boost pay by $2 an hour for hourly workers in the U.S. and Canada.
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