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Is Amazon doing all it can to protect its employees from COVID-19?

| Jun 8, 2020 | Workplace Illness

Amazon has become one of the country’s largest employers in recent years. Warehouses have popped up in every state, as the country has collectively begun to rely on the convenience and fast delivery of the online retail giant over brick-and-mortar alternatives.

In the face of the current pandemic, shelter-in-place orders are forcing more Americans to turn to online delivery for all of their purchases – from milk to toilet paper. This trend is putting even more strain on the millions of essential workers who fulfill and deliver these orders. Yet Amazon has faced harsh criticism for its inadequate efforts to protect its workers’ health.

Amazon criticized for taking inadequate precautions

Amazon workers around the country have been protesting the company’s response to the pandemic. They claim that the working conditions do not allow for social distancing, and the company does not offer adequate hand sanitizer or protective gear.

Many have been coming forward to anonymously report the workplace circumstances they have witnessed. United for Respect – a worker advocacy group – has reported that the virus has spread to more than 130 Amazon warehouses across the country. The hardest hit warehouse is estimated to have upwards of 100 confirmed cases. So far, seven Amazon employees have died from COVID-19.

Amazon itself has been quiet about how bad the situation really is. The company has refused to release information about how many people are infected – and how many have died from the virus. They are also allegedly not informing warehouse workers when there is a virus-related death in their own facility. In an interview on “60 Minutes”, Senior Vice President Dave Clark said that sharing this information “isn’t particularly useful.”

State governments disagree. The attorneys general from 12 states and the District of Columbia have petitioned the president of Amazon to release state-by-state information about confirmed cases and deaths in Amazon – and its subsidiary, Whole Foods – facilities.

What protections can essential workers expect?

In this unprecedented time, many essential workers around the country are being called to go to work while the rest of the country shelters in place. This is a major sacrifice to ask of anyone.

However, every employer has an obligation to provide the safest possible work environment for their employees. This includes during a pandemic. No one should have to go to work scared for their own health and safety because their employer isn’t doing all they can to protect their workforce.