California attorney general Xavier Becerra says Amazon has been ignoring subpoenas about its health and safety plans. As such, he's asked the courts to step in and force Amazon to comply.
Amazon, for its part, says:
The bottom line is that we're a leader in providing Covid-19 safety measures for our employees -- we've invested billions of dollars in equipment and technology, including building onsite testing for employees and providing personal protective equipment. We encourage anyone to compare our speed and actions in this area to any other major employer.
Being a leader and producing documents are two very different things. Becerra says that he wants specific policies and procedures around sick time, cleaning, and infections within Amazon's California staff.
If the government comes knocking on your door, you can take Amazon's route of not promptly producing the information, or you can make it easier on yourself and your wallet (remember, you'll need to pay legal fees to fight this). Here's how:
Have your plan ready.
We are almost a full year into this pandemic. You should have a written safety plan, and some states, according to employment attorney and HR consultant Kate Bischoff, require these plans by law.
If you don't have your plan and aren't keeping information on your positive Covid-19 cases, start now, and consult with an employment attorney about what you need to do to bring your plan and your reporting into compliance. It's always cheaper to ask for legal advice before the subpoena shows up at your door.
Take the workers' complaints seriously.
Becerra says he's responding to reports from employees. "We're investigating because we got reports, information, complaints about conditions, incidents," Becerra said. "We believe that it merits looking into Amazon's protocols, practices, based on information that we have received."
Employment attorney Jon Hyman says:
It seems like a reasonable request in response to worker safety complaints. If employees are saying that Amazon (or any other employer) isn't following Covid safety rules and complains to OSHA or a similar state agency, then a request for records relating to said safety compliance (or lack thereof) seems perfectly reasonable to me.
If your workers are complaining, even if they are wrong and you are following all guidelines, it's reasonable for the state to follow up. If you're responding to employees' complaints internally, they are less likely to file complaints externally. You can save yourself many headaches by taking employees' complaints seriously and fixing the problems before they report them to state and federal agencies.
That said, when reports happen, and the government wants to follow up, it's a reasonable request, and you should be prepared.
Regularly update your plan.
CDC guidelines change regularly. If you operate in multiple states, you may have different laws in each state. Make sure you comply with everything. That may sound overwhelming, but it is doable. Appoint an employee (preferably someone in HR or compliance) to keep up to date on any state or local guideline changes. Keep an eye out for CDC guideline changes.
When in doubt, pick up the phone and call. Your state health department or your local employment attorney can guide you.
Remember, this is about employee safety.
It's easy to be angry at the amount of time it takes to make plans, document incidents, and report back to government bodies, but keep in mind why you're doing this--your employees' safety. You don't want your employees to become sick, and ensuring you have the proper safety and cleaning protocols can help keep everyone healthy.