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Frosh urges Whole Foods, Amazon to strengthen worker protections during COVID-19 pandemic

BALTIMORE, MD—Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh this week joined a coalition of 13 attorneys general calling on Amazon and Whole Foods to strengthen measures to protect the health and safety of their workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter sent to the companies, the attorneys general request updated information on several outstanding issues raised by the coalition in a previous letter sent March 25 that urged the companies to improve their paid leave policies. This week’s letter asks Amazon and Whole Foods to provide the states with details of health and safety measures they have adopted, data about infections and deaths among their workers, evidence of their compliance with state paid sick leave laws, and more.

“Amazon and its subsidiary, Whole Foods, are responsible for ensuring the safety and welfare of hundreds of thousands of employees. These companies should be transparent about their efforts to keep their workers healthy,” said Attorney General Frosh.

The attorneys general write that they are alarmed by recent media reports that allege these companies have inadequate safety measures and sick leave policies, maintain insufficient data about infections and deaths among their workers, and tolerate retaliation against workers who call attention to unsafe workplace conditions. In the wake of these ongoing media reports, the attorneys general urge Amazon and Whole Foods to provide the following:

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  • A written response showing how the companies are complying with guidance and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to prevent exposure and transmission of COVID-19, including by providing workers with adequate personal protective equipment, hand washing and hand sanitizer, and social distancing policies;
  • A written response demonstrating how the companies are complying with state paid sick leave laws;
  • A state-by-state breakdown for each company on the number of their workers who have been infected with and died from COVID-19;
  • A description of policies and procedures for notifying consumers and public health authorities of COVID-19 infections and deaths among Whole Foods employees (many of the states’ consumer protection laws require businesses to provide this information to consumers);
  • Assurances that workers will not be retaliated against for raising concerns about health and safety issues in Amazon and Whole Foods workplaces with management, the media, coworkers, or by filing complaints with relevant government agencies, and that all reports of retaliation will be investigated by the companies;
  • An extension to the companies’ existing unlimited unpaid leave policies for as long as a state or federal state of emergency exists in each of the states; and
  • Generous paid leave policies as outlined in the states’ March 25 letter that align with requirements in the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act and provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for workers who must stay at home to care for children due to school closures or for themselves and family members if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, diagnosed with COVID-19, or quarantined.

Amazon and Whole Foods occupy a unique space during this crisis by providing groceries and necessary supplies to millions of Americans who now rely on online shopping more than ever. The attorneys general write that due to the essential services they provide across the country, these companies have an even greater obligation to ensure their employees stay safe and healthy while working throughout the pandemic.

Joining Attorney General Frosh in sending today’s letter are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

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