Lorena Gonzalez Bill to Improve Amazon Warehouse Working Conditions Passes Assembly Labor Committee

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

AB 3056 Ensures Bathroom Breaks, Handwashing, Hydrating Not Counted Toward Time to Complete Quotas

SACRAMENTO – (Wednesday, May 20, 2020) – As the current public health crisis forces many Californians to order more items online and rely on the labor of essential warehouse workers, a bill by State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to make sure employees at large warehouse distribution centers are treated with basic human dignity passed the Assembly Labor Committee today on a 5-1 vote. 

“Workers should never be punished for taking a restroom break or washing their hands during their shifts, but warehouse distribution centers, like those operated by Amazon, penalize employees that operate under a quota when they use their time for these basic human needs,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. “We need to act now to create safe workplaces and fair pay standards for California workers in large warehouses.”

The exponential rise in e-commerce has created a need for data-driven worker productivity, as warehouses are full of a variety of products that workers must pick and pack to fulfill specific orders for shipment. Worker productivity is monitored to determine whether someone has met a specified rate or quota of items pulled. Automated systems generate warnings when too many time-off tasks occur in a worker’s shift, and accumulated warnings can result in workers being fired without a human manager even being involved.

These quotas can also change over time, forcing workers to adapt and work faster. While California overtime law covers employees who work more than a specified amount of time in a workday, these protections do not account for performing more work within the workday due to an increased quota or work above a quota. 

Assembly Bill 3056 prohibits time used going to the restroom, using a hand-washing station, drinking water, reporting a Labor Code violation or taking a legally mandated break from being counted toward the time required to complete a quota.

The time it takes to walk to and from restrooms can be counted as time off task. In one facility in Riverside County, employees had to walk for seven minutes to the nearest restroom, leading many to forego bathroom breaks rather than face penalties for the time-off-task and subsequent termination. Warehouse workers currently suffer injuries at nearly twice the national average due to these strenuous and taxing working conditions. 

AB 3056 would make sure warehouse workers at companies like Amazon are allowed to perform basic human necessities without fear of being fired. The bill would establish civil penalties for an employer of $250 per employee for an initial violation, and $1,000 per employee for subsequent violations.

For questions on AB 3056 or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez, contact Sami Gallegos: samantha.gallegos@asm.ca.gov