By Caroline O’Donovan and Ken Bensinger | Buzzfeed News
Until Wednesday, the online retailer was insisting its warehouse employees gather to meet before every shift and pack into tight break rooms for meals. Amazon has plans to hire 100,000 additional workers to meet surging demand amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Amazon has stopped requiring some of its warehouse employees to gather in closely packed groups for “stand up” meetings before every shift and is reconfiguring break rooms to promote social distancing and prevent spread of the coronavirus.
The shift in policy, which workers learned of Wednesday morning, comes in the face of growing protests from hourly workers who have complained to managers and signed petitions demanding that the meetings cease, and also that employees be allowed to keep a safe distance away from their colleagues during the outbreak. Workers have increasingly expressed fears of getting infected at work, and some warehouse employees in Europe have already tested positive for COVID-19.
“Before COVID-19 surges further, businesses should become familiar with the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers and carefully review OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. After all, as much of the world grinds to a halt, some business must go on, and employers’ OSHA obligations will too. As a consequence, employers will owe a general duty to keep their workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” To satisfy this duty, and keep their workforce healthy, employers should use OSHA’s guiding principles as the building blocks for a finely-tuned suite of policies that is fit to meet this growing challenge.” ~ Jonathan Udell, Cannabis and Litigation Attorney at Rose Law Group