The new law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, also protects workers from being fired or retaliated against for failing to meet an unsafe quota. And it allows them the ability sue to block unsafe quotas or fight retaliation.
“We cannot allow corporations to put profit over people,” Newsom said in a statement, signing the measure into law. “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.”
The measure, he said, gives workers “the dignity, respect and safety they deserve and advancing California’s leadership at the forefront of workplace safety.”
Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
And while the law doesn’t specifically name Amazon, its author, Democratic assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, made it clear that curtailing the company’s practices were at the heart of the measure.
“Amazon’s business model relies on enforcing inhumane work speeds that are injuring and churning through workers at a faster rate than we’ve ever seen,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “Workers aren’t machines. We’re not going to allow a corporation that puts profits over workers’ bodies to set labor standards back decades just for ‘same-day delivery.’”
The new law comes as Amazon faces criticism over the way it tracks warehouse worker productivity. Workers have complained that the company, which uses computers that show employees how many items they’ve stowed, picked or packed in an hour, pressures them to “make rate.” Missing those targets can lead managers to write up workers, a blemish on their record that can make it difficult to advance and can even lead to firings.
A Post investigation of work-related injury data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in June found that, since 2017, Amazon reported a higher rate of serious injury incidents that caused employees to miss work or be shifted to light-duty tasks than at other warehouse operators in retail.
“We don’t set unreasonable performance goals,” Bezos wrote in a letter to shareholders in April, in which he addressed workplace safety issues. “We set achievable performance goals that take into account tenure and actual employee performance data.”
The California law isn’t the only effort by lawmakers targeting Amazon. Earlier this month, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, urging the agency to investigate “Amazon’s systemic failure to provide adequate accommodations” for pregnant warehouse employees. The letter cites cases in which Amazon didn’t modify job duties or allow reasonable time off, in possible violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Americans With Disabilities Act, according to the letter sent to EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows. Five other senators, including Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), signed onto Gillibrand’s letter.
Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel disputed allegations made in Gillibrand’s letter in a statement at the time, adding that ensuring “the health and well-being of our employees is one of our greatest responsibilities, and we work hard to provide a safe and supportive environment for everyone.”