Amazon is well-known for its ability to deliver its packages within 24 hours. In order to accomplish this feat, Amazon imposes strict work rules on its employers. Most workers in Amazon’s distribution centers are subject to minimum quotas and limits on time away from work. These limits are very strict and have stirred opposition among Amazon’s workers. The bill has stirred very strong reactions among California warehouse workers.
The bill and its provisions
The bill, known as Assembly Bill 701, essentially prohibits employers from firing workers if they failed to meet a quota that interfered with their ability to take bath or restroom breaks. In addition, the bill prohibits workers from disciplining workers for being “off task” when they are complying with health and safety laws. While the bill does not specifically name Amazon, it is plainly aimed at rules that Amazon routinely imposes on its warehouse workers.
Amazon’s critics accuse the company of “pushing workers to risk their bodies for next-day delivery,” but Amazon did not respond to press inquiries about the new bill. A spokesman for the California Retailers Association points to the state’s OSHA law and says that the new law affects too many companies. Michelin, the tire manufacturer, says that the bill will adversely affect distribution centers in many industries.
Industry studies support bill
A recent study by an Ontario-based research firm does not support Amazon’s claims. According to the study, “Workers reported that Amazon’s excessive quotas make it impossible for workers’ to meet their quotas without risking serious injury. Sixty-seven percent of Amazon workers who were interviewed for the study reported that their work quotas are too high. Other research indicates that workers attempting to meet Amazon’s strict quotas run the risk of a range of adverse health impacts, including shoulder pain, muscle or joint symptoms and back disorders.
If a worker believes that he or she has been disciplined within 90 days of complaining about an unsafe quota, the act gives the worker the right to a hearing, and the employer bears the presumption of having imposed an unsafe quota.
The statute will create a number of remedies for warehouse workers who believe that their work conditions are dangerously harsh. Anyone who believes that they work in such a situation may wish to consult an attorney who is experienced in handling cases involving work place injuries. A knowledgeable attorney can evaluate the evidence and provide an opinion about whether the new law creates an effective remedy that will protect the worker.