On May 11, 13 attorneys general sent a letter to John Mackey and Jeff Bezos, the respective CEOs of Whole Foods and Amazon, imploring them to address certain health and safety concerns regarding COVID-19. According to the letter, various media accounts previously reported Amazon’s failure to comply with safety measures, including supplying inadequate amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizer.
The attorneys general responsible for the letter represent Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
The letter was critical of the companies’ failure to provide ample protective supplies, saying, “We are dismayed to have heard multiple reports of Amazon warehouses with inadequate PPE and hand sanitizer, inability to practice social distancing, limited opportunity to wash hands, and other deficiencies that put employees at risk.” The letter also requests specific information from the two companies, including their compliance with state sick leave laws and data on employee COVID-19 deaths and infections.
The letter additionally requested the extension of Amazon and Whole Foods’ unlimited unpaid sick leave until the state of emergency’s conclusion, and a more generous paid leave policy for independent contractors. “We requested generous paid leave policies in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus during the current pandemic,” wrote the attorneys general. “While we applaud the Companies’ change of course to permit paid leave to employees who are symptomatic and seeking a diagnosis, we are disappointed that the Companies have not made more meaningful changes.”
The letter ended by recognizing the companies’ important roles during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, “It is incumbent upon Amazon and Whole Foods as businesses and employers not to worsen the emergency by failing to take every possible step to protect their employees and their customers.”