WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today joined a group of 14 other Attorneys General urging Amazon and Whole Foods to expand paid sick and family leave for their employees and independent contractors during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter, the Attorneys General urge the companies to provide paid sick and family leave comparable to what smaller companies are required to provide under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Families First Act), which was recently passed by Congress and signed into law last week. The Families First Act requires companies with fewer than 500 employees to provide two weeks of fully paid sick leave to those diagnosed with COVID-19, advised to self-quarantine, or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis. The Families First Act also requires companies to provide up to 12 weeks of family leave (which include up to 10 weeks of partially paid leave) to care for children whose schools have closed due to COVID-19 concerns.
Amazon and Whole Foods recently announced that they would provide up to two weeks of paid sick leave to employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine. However, this criteria would not cover symptomatic workers who may still be seeking a COVID-19 diagnosis. Such a narrow criteria could place employees and customers at greater risk of exposure to the virus. The companies’ announced policy also does not provide the family leave that the Families First Act requires of smaller companies.
There are five Whole Foods Markets in the District of Columbia. As grocery stores still remain open to the public during the pandemic, the Attorneys General underscore the importance of these stores doing everything possible to minimize the risk of infection and to encourage sick employees not to come to work. Additionally, with consumers relying more than ever on online shopping, Amazon warehouses could be a significant site for possible transmission of the virus both from worker to worker and to the general public.
In the letter, the Attorneys General urge Amazon and Whole Foods to adopt at least the requirements the Families First Act place on smaller employers, including expanding their paid sick leave eligibility to workers experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking diagnosis, those caring for family members diagnosed with COVID-19 or advised to self-quarantine, or caring for children whose schools have closed due to COVID-19 concerns. Additionally, they encourage the companies to provide up to 12 weeks of leave at two-thirds of their regular pay for workers who must stay at home to care for children due to school closures or for themselves and family members diagnosed with COVID-19 or quarantined. Finally, the Attorneys General ask Amazon not to overlook their other workers classified as independent contractors and to provide them with paid sick leave benefits comparable to those provided to their employees.
AG Racine sent this letter along with the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.
The final letter is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-03/Amazon-Whole-Foods-Families-First-Letter.pdf
OAG’s Efforts to Protect Workers
In 2017, OAG worked with the Council of the District of Columbia to gain independent authority to investigate and bring wage theft cases, and to increase penalties on employers who violate the District’s wage and hour laws. Since then, OAG has launched more than 30 investigations into wage theft and payroll fraud and has taken action against a home health care provider, KFC franchises, a cell phone retailer, a cafe chain, multiple construction companies, and other businesses that harmed District workers. AG Racine also recently testified before Congress and highlighted findings from an OAG report about how worker misclassification hurts workers, undercuts law-abiding businesses, and cheats taxpayers.
Workers can learn more about their rights under District law at: https://oag.dc.gov/workers-rights
Workers who have experienced wage theft or other wage and hour violations can contact OAG by phone at: (202) 727-3400.
OAG’s COVID-19 Resources
In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is teleworking until at least April 27. You can access OAG services online and over the phone during our telework period at:
- Website: oag.dc.gov
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: (202) 727-3400
- Fax: (202) 347-8922
- TTY: (202) 727-3400
- More information about COVID-19 is at: www.oag.dc.gov/coronavirus
Know Your Rights: Read OAG’s Consumer Alert to protect yourself from scams, price gouging, discrimination, and to get information about consumer, worker, and tenant rights during the pandemic. This alert is also available in Amharic, Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese.
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