California has become the first state in the nation to regulate working conditions related to quotas at Amazon.com Inc. warehouses.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 701 on Wednesday. The new law, which will take effect at the beginning of next year, would make it illegal for companies such as Amazon
to punish warehouse workers for failing to meet quotas because they were taking lunch or restroom breaks. It would also make clear to those workers what their quotas are.
“The hardworking warehouse employees who have helped sustain us during these unprecedented times should not have to risk injury or face punishment as a result of exploitative quotas that violate basic health and safety,” Newsom said in a statement Wednesday.
AB 701 also empowers the state labor commissioner to issue citations and access worker’s compensation data to identify warehouses with high rates of injury that might be caused by quotas.
Amazon — the giant online retailer that has grown even bigger because of the coronavirus pandemic — has hired hundreds of thousands of workers since the pandemic began and said this month that it plans to hire 125,000 more workers at its fulfillment centers and other facilities.
California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, who wrote the bill, has cited data that shows Amazon warehouse workers experienced serious injuries at a rate nearly 80% higher than that of other employers in the warehousing industry in 2020.
“As workers are increasingly surveilled on the job and supervised by algorithms, AB 701 is just the beginning of our work to regulate dangerous quotas and keep employers that have operated above the law in check,” Gonzalez said in a statement Wednesday.
An Amazon worker at a Northern California warehouse who spoke with MarketWatch and asked not to be named said he supports AB 701.
“They focus on your rates,” he said. “They don’t want idle time at Amazon.” He added that as someone who has worked for the company for a long time, he has learned to time his trips to the bathroom around his break so they don’t affect his rates.
Amazon has not returned a request for comment.