Flash Report: Judge Denies Injunction Against Amazon S.F.

A San Francisco Superior Court judge has denied an injunction sought by an employee of an Amazon fulfillment center to enforce COVID-19 protections.

Judge Ethan Schulman said three agencies at the local and state level, including Cal/OSHA, are already investigating conditions at the San Francisco Fulfillment Center, also known as Amazon Ultra-Fast Fresh, and the company has shown that it’s taking steps to improve conditions.

The suit was brought by Amazon employee Chiyomi Brent. She is an order picker at the warehouse which supplies groceries. She alleges that Amazon failed to take adequate measures to protect warehouse workers, including:

  • Failing to sanitize common areas and equipment;
  • Failing to sanitize “freezer suits” used by multiple Amazon employees while working in freezers; and
  • Failing to ensure proper physical distancing between employees.

Brent’s suit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, plus civil penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act. She wants Amazon to regularly deep-clean the facility, enforce safe distancing, enforce the proper use of face coverings, and ensure contact tracing.

The merits are yet to be determined and the judge said a temporary restraining order is not warranted. The San Francisco Department of Public Health told the court that after issuing a notice of violation to the facility on July 10, it revisited the site about a week later and found Amazon had abated problem conditions. SFDPH also noted that there have not been any known or suspected COVID-19 infections at the warehouse.

Cal/OSHA’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health confirmed that it is investigating the site and has made at least one site visit. It also confirmed the lack of COVID infections.

“It is a fair reading of the record that Amazon – like countless other employers and institutions, private and public – has improved its practices and policies over time as it attempts to react to a fast-moving and unprecedented global health crisis, and to evolving regulatory requirements,” Judge Schulman said, adding, “perfection is not the standard.”

Amazon says the lawsuit is “without merit and entirely misplaced. Amazon is an essential business and has invested heavily to protect against COVID-19.”

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