News Flash Covid-19 and Business: French Court orders Amazon to limit activity to essential needs

Published on : 21/04/2020 21 April Apr 2020

In two recent court cases that are important for all employers, the French courts have disciplined businesses that were considered to not be doing enough to protect their employees’ health in the light of the crisis.

Amazon must limit itself to essential products pending a risk assessment involving staff representatives. On April 14, 2020, the Nanterre Court ordered Amazon to limit, within 24 hours, its activity to essential goods (hygiene, medical, food), pending an assessment, in association with employee representatives, of the risks associated with the Covid-19 epidemic and the measures taken to protect employees.

The retail giant has 24 hours after notification to comply with this order, which is subject to a penalty payment of one million euros per offence and per day of delay.

The date for the reopening of Amazon's French sites is not yet known, says Frédéric Duval, its managing director for France.

Following the decision of the Nanterre court of justice on Tuesday, the works council (CSE), convened on Wednesday, and voted by 14 votes out of 18 in favour of this closure to clean up the sites and assess the risks. Employees and temporary workers (nearly 10,000 people) will be paid 100% of their wages during this five-day period, according to the management, which specified that recourse to short-time working had been "evoked", but that its "modalities of application have not been defined".

This court decision comes a few days after a Court in Paris ordered the French postal service (La Poste) to evaluate in detail the professional risks of the epidemic for its workers.

La Poste was sued by a trade union in an urgent court proceeding that aimed to obtain an injunction “to evaluate the occupational risks linked to the Covid-19 epidemic.”

La Poste is forced to produce "as soon as possible" a document detailing this evaluation.

In its interim order, the Paris court ordered the company "to prepare and disseminate as soon as possible" a "single risk assessment document". To this end, it asked the company to carry out "a detailed assessment of each of the occupational risks identified as a result of the current health crisis of the Covid-19 epidemic".

This assessment must include "an inventory of all postal activities considered essential and non-essential to the life of the Nation", as well as the "conditions of exercise related to the Covid-19 epidemic of the various occupations and jobs in postal activities essential to the life of the Nation".

It must also determine the "impact of the arrival of support services, external employees, temporary workers and employees on fixed-term contracts called upon to help with the distribution of press, mail and parcels and the opening of its branches.

The assessment should also cover "measures adopted in cases of reported infections, whether proven or suspected" and "psychosocial risks resulting specifically from the Covid-19 epidemic". Other claims by the trade union were rejected, including its requests to set up a national consultation body and a precise health assessment.

These cases are a clear reminder for all business that though the tentative end date of quarantine is May 11, a company's return to operation must be prepared well in advance of the return of personnel, to avoid, like La Poste or Amazon, being called to order.
 

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