California is investigating concerns about COVID-19 safety at Amazon centers

According to a new court filing, multiple California state offices are actively investigating Amazon over worker safety concerns as the coronavirus continues to rage throughout the U.S.

In the filing, reported by Reuters, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman writes that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health and San Francisco’s Department of Public Health have all opened investigations into the online retail giant’s workplace practices in light of the pandemic. The attorney general’s office declined to comment when reached by TechCrunch.

While Amazon faced frequent criticism for worker well-being before the pandemic, the ongoing crisis has made those concerns even more stark. With white-collar workers sent home, the virus has spread quickly through clusters of employees at factory floors and warehouses nationwide where social distancing isn’t enforced. Amazon’s own shipping centers have reported outbreaks, including one in the Pocono Mountains and another in Oregon, and by May eight Amazon warehouse workers had died from the virus.

The disclosure of the three California state investigations came out of a court case accusing Amazon of failing to adequately protect workers in a San Francisco Amazon Fresh Fulfillment Center. In the lawsuit, filed in March, Amazon Fresh worker Chiyomi Brent accuses the company of taking risks, including sharing the suits they wear into freezers without cleaning them after each use. Brent also filed a complaint with California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which is now looking into Amazon’s distribution center practices.

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