California’s Amazon-Inspired Warehouse Safety Bill to Become Law

Sept. 22, 2021, 11:59 PM

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Wednesday intended to improve worker safety and lower injuries at shipping warehouses used by Amazon.com Inc., Walmart Inc., Target Corp., and other retailers.

The new law (A.B. 701) will require warehouse employers to describe to employees in writing the details of their expected production targets, or quotas. It also will prohibit managers from enforcing a target that prevents an employee from taking rest, meal, and bathroom breaks.

“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. The measure passed the California Legislature on Sept. 9 and will take effect Jan. 1, 2022.

The law seeks to reverse a trend of warehouse workers for major retailers suffering a higher-than-average number of workplace injuries.

Advocates say the law’s motivation was the computer algorithms that Amazon—the second-largest private employer in the U.S., after Walmart—uses to set targets for the time it takes a worker to complete a task. Workers complain that their routines are punishing and unforgiving, sometimes leaving them an inadequate amount of time to use a restroom.

Business groups say the new law will lead to higher costs and shipping delays, and could drive jobs out of the state, particularly in light of other state regulations that are affecting the shipping and warehousing industry, said Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association.
Given the “layering upon layering of regulations and fees and liability on these companies, it’s cheaper for them to truck product from the ports outside of California, process it, and then bring it back into the state,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tiffany Stecker in Sacramento, Calif. at tstecker@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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