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Photo: David Ryder via Getty Images

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Monday that the state has ordered Amazon to pay $500,000 for "concealing COVID-19 case numbers" from workers.

Why it matters: The court judgment is the first of its kind under California's new "right to know" law, which aims to bolster worker safety by requiring employers to disclose coronavirus cases to employees and local health agencies, among other provisions.

Details: Amazon "failed to adequately notify warehouse workers and local health agencies of COVID-19 case numbers, often leaving them in the dark and unable to effectively track the spread of the virus," Bonta's office said in a statement.

  • Amazon will modify its COVID notification systems, submit to regulatory monitoring and pay $500,000 toward further enforcement of the state's consumer protection laws.

What they're saying: "Californians have a right to know about potential exposures to the coronavirus to protect themselves, their families, and their communities," Bonta said in his statement.

  • "This judgment sends a clear message that businesses must comply with this important law. It helps protect us all."

The other side: An Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the firm was glad to have the matter resolved "and to see that the AG found no substantive issues with the safety measures in our buildings."

  • "This settlement is solely about a technicality specific to California state law surrounding the structure of bulk employee COVID-related notifications," the spokesperson added.
  • "There’s no change to, or allegations of any problems with, our protocols for notifying employees who might have been in close contact with an affected individual."
"We’ve worked hard from the beginning of the pandemic to keep our employees safe and deliver for our customers — incurring more than $15 billion in costs to date — and we’ll keep doing that in months and years ahead."
— Amazon spokesperson

The big picture: Amazon has faced complaints and criticism about worker safety throughout the pandemic.

  • Last year, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health fined Amazon $1,870 for violations related to working conditions at delivery and fulfillment centers, per the Los Angeles Times.
  • Xavier Becerra, who was then-attorney general of California, also launched an investigation into whether Amazon was doing enough to mitigate risks of infection among workers, the Washington Post reported last year.
  • New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against Amazon in February, alleging noncompliance with workplace rules.

Go deeper

Unvaccinated federal employees must test for COVID weekly

Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

Unvaccinated federal employees will need to submit to weekly COVID testing beginning Feb. 15, the Biden administration announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: More than 90% of the 3.5 million federal workers had received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine ahead of Biden's deadline in November. The new guidance on testing applies to those who have received or applied for exemptions.

A pandemic victim: Ethical supply chains

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Over the last decade, global companies have put in place elaborate policies to ensure their suppliers protect worker safety and human rights. They're struggling to comply with those policies in the pandemic.

Driving the news: COVID-era disruptions have caused a spike in noncompliance with health and safety rules, according to new data from Qima, which audits supply chains.

Public schools staffing is on the brink of collapse

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The public school system is hanging by a thread as staff are stressed, burned out and thinking of quitting more than ever before.

Why it matters: Staffing shortages are leading school districts to look for "bodies in a room to babysit kids" as last-ditch efforts to keep their doors open, one education researcher told Axios.