Washington’s Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1762, which protects warehouse employees from productivity requirements, into law on Thursday.
The new regulation compels businesses to provide employees with information regarding quotas, any unfavorable measures that might be taken if quotas are not met, and any incentives for reaching or surpassing quotas when hired. It also compels businesses to notify employees if quotas are changed. Furthermore, the legislation mandates that quotas account for time for rest and food breaks, time to use the lavatory, and time to acquire tools and safety equipment required for the task.
“For far too long, warehouse workers have been putting themselves in danger in order to keep their jobs, instilling fear in them every time they clock in.” These laws ensure that no one is required to meet a quota that jeopardizes their health, safety, ability to take breaks, or even do something as simple as use the restroom,” said John Scearcy, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 117, which represents warehouse workers, in a press release.
Warehouse employees are often employed in businesses such as retail, e-commerce, and logistics in the United States, and are responsible for a variety of duties such as receiving, storing, selecting, packaging, and shipping items.
The physical demands of the job are a regular source of contention. Warehouse employees frequently undergo manual labor such as heavy lifting, bending, and standing for extended periods of time. This can cause physical exhaustion and discomfort, making it difficult for workers to be productive during their shifts. Additionally, the repetitive nature of their employment might result in musculoskeletal ailments such as carpal tunnel syndrome, back discomfort, and shoulder injury.
But now, Washington has joined California and New York in passing legislation to safeguard warehouse employees from productivity requirements.
The passage of the bill in Washington, where Amazon is headquartered, is particularly noteworthy, according to Rick Hicks, Teamsters Western Region international vice president and president of Teamsters Joint Council 28. “HB 1762 is critical to holding the world’s largest online retailer accountable for its inhumane, churn-and-burn business model,” Hicks stated in a statement.
Amazon’s warehouse productivity requirements have long been chastised for endangering workers.
“Warehouse distribution centers should prepare for increased regulation over their use of employee production quotas,” argues Kathryn Barry, a principal at the law firm Jackson Lewis.
The new warehouse productivity standards mainly target major distribution facilities and may provide some challenges for businesses seeking to comply because the laws compel corporations to explain what disciplinary measures may be taken if targets are not reached, says Barry.
“While this may appear simple, many employers use sophisticated algorithms or detailed engineered labor standards to establish workplace productivity requirements, and the laws are unclear as to the level of detail that must be disclosed to the employee,” Barry explained.