Recent case law: The Amazon Covid19 Health Case

Published on : 26/05/2020 26 May May 2020

The Versailles Court of Appeal confirmed that Amazon must limit its activities pending a risk assessment with the works council- On April 24, 2020, the Versailles Court of Appeal confirmed the order of the Nanterre court of April 14, 2020, in that it ordered Amazon France to carry out, with the participation of employee representatives, an assessment of the occupational risks inherent in the Covid-19 epidemic at all of its warehouses and the implementation of the resulting safety and health protection measures. The judges of the court of appeals ordered the company to restrict its warehouses to operations relating to essential product categories listed by the company.

The context resulted from alerts for serious and imminent danger triggered by the staff representatives and withdrawal right used by some employees. Several company’s sites received letters of formal notice from the French Administration (Direccte) in order to implement Covid-19 risk prevention measures. Moreover, there was a criminal complaint issued by some employees against Amazon Logistique for Endangerment (« endangering the lives of others »)

What was the court ruling?

The lower court and the appellate court both found that Amazon had breached the employer’s general safety obligation:
    • no sufficient risks assessment
    • no implementation of the necessary protection measures
    • No upstream discussion with the staff representatives on the protection measures to be implemented

However, the Appellate court ruled that the list of authorized activities is broader (i.e. high-tech and stationery goods, products for animals, hygiene, medical and food products).
The financial penalty is less severe  than before the lower court: (€100,000 for each reception, preparation and/or dispatch of unauthorized products)

This decision has been seen as signaling a reminder to all employers of the legal liability that they bear in regard to the health and safety of their employees.

Businesses should keep this in mind as they restart their operations.
 

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