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California law offers protections to warehouse workers

Online shopping has become a huge part of our lives, especially over the past year and a half. But, while the shopping experience now seems as simple as clicking a button on a website, the logistics of getting products into the hands of consumers depend on individual workers, especially warehouse workers.

Online retailers such as Amazon have greatly expanded their warehouse operations in recent years, and place a lot of pressure on their employees to move goods as quickly as they can. Some, including Amazon, have at times relied on strict quotas and used computer algorithms in attempts to maximize productivity. At times, this pressure has led to horror stories about workers going without meal or bathroom breaks, or facing other tough working conditions.

New state law

A new California law aims to improve working conditions by prohibiting employers from firing or retaliating against warehouse workers who fail to meet a productivity quota if that quota is unsafe.

While the law does not mention Amazon by name, the online retailer will surely be impacted. Over the past two years, Amazon hired tens of thousands of new workers, with many of them in warehouses and delivery. The employer uses algorithms to track productivity among its workers in an attempt to speed up delivery of goods. This rush has taken a toll on the company’s workers. According to one study, Amazon warehouse workers have a rate of serious injuries that is almost double the average within the industry.

The new law will allow the state to investigate warehouses where rates of injury are high, and to issue citations against employers who enforce unsafe quotas.

Help for workers

Some industry spokespeople have expressed displeasure with the new law, saying it will further contribute to rising prices and delays in shipping. Workers’ rights advocates have praised the law, saying it will protect workers from exploitative practices.

Hard working California workers have rights. Those who feel they have been subject to illegal treatment at work can seek out advice from a skilled employment law attorney.