As consumers, we’ve gotten used to being able to order something online from Amazon or another giant retailer and get it within a day – sometimes the same day. That requires round-the-clock work from those employed in the warehouse distribution centers.
In order to meet consumer demand and expectations, companies have implemented production quotas for their workers that often are unreasonable. They may have little or no time for meals or even bathroom breaks.
Here in California, a new law (AB 701) took effect on Jan. 1 that is designed to ease the burden on these workers. It’s the first such law in the U.S., but it likely won’t be the last.
What does AB 701 do?
The new law regulates the production quotas employers are allowed to set for workers employed in large warehouses and warehouse distribution centers. For example, employers are prohibited from setting production quotas that don’t take into consideration time for restroom visits or other breaks or that don’t comply with state health and safety laws.
According to the California assemblywoman who authored the legislation, the algorithm being used at Amazon to determine quotas didn’t allow for any break time.
Further, employers cannot retaliate against an employee in any way, including terminating them, if they fail to meet a production quota that compromises their safety. The assemblywoman, a former labor leader who has spoken out in the past about Amazon, once said that employees “can’t so much as use the restroom without fearing retaliation.”
Amazon is certainly not the only company doing business in California that will be affected by the new law. However, some of its employees have been at the forefront of speaking out about the impossible demands placed on warehouse distribution center workers as well as delivery people.
California has some of the most employee-centered laws in the country. However, it’s crucial for employees to understand their rights under the law and to know how to take action if those rights are being violated.