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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

AG HEALEY CALLS ON AMAZON AND WHOLE FOODS TO IMMEDIATELY IMPROVE PAID LEAVE TO EMPLOYEES DURING COVID-19 EMERGENCY



BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey today led a group of 15 attorneys general in calling on Amazon and Whole Foods to strengthen paid sick and family leave to their employees during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

In the letter, the attorneys general ask the companies to provide paid sick and family leave as smaller businesses are required to do under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Families First Act), which was enacted by Congress on March 19 to ensure paid leave for workers during this crisis.

“Amazon and Whole Foods need to provide their entire workforce with adequate paid leave so they can care for themselves and their families during this pandemic,” said AG Healey. “These companies must act quickly to minimize the risk of transmission in their stores and warehouses.”

            The attorneys general write that the recent offer from Whole Foods, and its owner Amazon to provide two weeks of paid leave to employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in quarantine is far less than what the Families First Act requires.

Under the Families First Act, employers with fewer than 500 employees must provide two weeks of fully paid time off to full- and part-time workers to self-quarantine, seek preventative care, or receive treatment for COVID-19; two weeks paid time off at two-thirds their regular pay for full- and part-time workers to care for family members; and 12 weeks of job-protected leave, including 10 weeks of paid leave at no less than two-thirds of their usual rate of pay (capped at $200 per day) to take care of their children if their school or daycare closes.
                                                                                                    
In the letter, the attorneys general urge Amazon and Whole Foods to adopt the requirements in the Families First Act for smaller employers and additionally to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for workers who must stay at home to care for children due to school closures or for themselves and family members if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, , diagnosed with COVID-19 or quarantined. Finally, the attorneys general ask Amazon not to overlook their delivery drivers who are classified as independent contractors and to provide additional money to their Emergency Fund for those workers so that they also receive comparable benefits as their other employees. 

Grocery stores such as Whole Foods remain one of the few places where people are regularly congregating in close quarters, and the attorneys general write that it is especially important to ensure these stores do everything possible to minimize the risk of infection. Additionally, with consumers relying more than ever on online shopping, Amazon warehouses are a significant site for possible transmission of the virus both from worker to worker and to the general public. 

AG Healey’s Fair Labor Division is responsible for enforcing state laws regulating the payment of wages, including minimum wage, overtime and earned sick time laws. Call the AG’s Fair Labor hotline at 617-727-3465 for more information on the state’s earned sick time laws, or file a complaint online if you think your rights have been violated. Read the AG’s FAQs on employee rights and employer obligations during the COVID-19 emergency and visit the AG’s COVID-19 resource page for information about how the AG’s Office can help during this crisis. 

AG Healey led today’s effort and was joined by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

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