California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a new law that will require Amazon.com Inc. and other companies to disclose any quotas or workplace-productivity measures it applies to workers in the state.
The legislation is the first to target a central facet of working at an Amazon warehouse, where the company has long used performance quotas to gauge worker productivity as it has gradually sped up shipping times. Gov. Newsom, a Democrat, signed the bill about two weeks after it was approved by state lawmakers.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the bill’s Democratic author, said it is giving workers "some basic dignity back and empowering them to keep themselves safe." Some Amazon warehouse and other employees have complained for years about working conditions and injury rates. Amazon has defended its workplace conditions even while vowing to reduce injuries.
Amazon, which hasn’t taken a public stance on the bill, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association, which opposed the bill and counts Amazon as a member, has said that it would exacerbate supply-chain issues already strained by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The new law will bar companies from enforcing quotas and penalties that affect employees’ health and safety, including the ability to take breaks or use the bathroom. It will also require companies to disclose their quotas and work-pace requirements to employees and state agencies.
While the law will affect numerous companies, it could have a significant impact on Amazon. If the state finds its productivity requirements are too strenuous, the company could have to reduce quotas hire more workers. The company’s warehouse operations employ roughly 750,000 people.
It is also possible other states could take up similar measures.
The online retailer uses algorithm-based quotas to measure employee productivity. While that has helped Amazon meet its fast shipping goals, some employees have said the system leads to unfair firings, as well as high-stress situations that lead some to cut corners to try to meet their expected rates. Amazon has recorded higher injury rates than the national average and doesn’t disclose its quotas.
Amazon has maintained that worker performance is measured over time and is based on employees’ experience levels, and that the company accounts for health and safety when forming performance goals. Amazon has said it is investing $300 million in worker safety and recently eased some policies that measure worker productivity.