According to revealnews.org, the Empire State is now the second U.S. state to enact laws governing warehouse work quotas, a move aimed at enhancing work conditions in Amazon’s facilities.
Governor Kathy Hochul gave her assent last month to the Warehouse Worker Protection Act, prohibiting the imposition of work quotas that impede warehouse workers from taking breaks for meals, rest, and restroom use. Reveal, a product of The Center for Investigative Reporting, disclosed in 2019 that Amazon employees, due to the extreme pressure to meet productivity goals and avoid punitive actions, postponed bathroom breaks, leading to some contracting urinary tract infections. The recently enacted legislation further mandates employers to give written quota notices and furnish productivity statistics to workers on demand. This is the latest in a series of governmental responses to the rising tide of injuries resulting from Amazon’s unyielding pursuit of speed.
The nationwide wave of state legislation, incited by Reveal’s probe into the injury crisis at Amazon, began with California passing a similar law in 2021. An analogous proposal in Minnesota was rejected last year but has seen a revival this month.
The New York legislation draws inspiration from its Californian counterpart, yet exhibits significant divergences: California’s law prohibits quotas that interfere with safety norms and empowers workers with the right to file lawsuits to enforce the law. Comparable clauses were excised from the New York bill due to the haste to enact it within a tight timeframe, said Jessica Ramos, the Chair of the New York Senate Labor Committee and the bill’s sponsor. Ramos, however, assured that further legislation is in the pipeline.
“Our journey has only just begun,” she declared. “I refuse to let my state transform into a breeding ground for high-tech sweatshops.”
Kelly Nantel, an Amazon representative, claimed the law stemmed from a misunderstanding of the company’s practices. According to her, Amazon doesn’t impose “rigid quotas,” rather, they measure performance against realistic and safe expectations.
Reveal has recorded instances of Amazon employing tracking software to bind workers to specific productivity levels under threat of punitive action. According to workers, former safety managers at Amazon, and Washington state safety officials, it is this incessant demand for speed that leads to workplace injuries.
Last month, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) blamed Amazon for improper recording of injuries at six warehouses across the nation and proposed fines nearing $30,000. In a New York warehouse, for instance, employees sustained injuries while handling a heavy box of kitty litter and an inflatable canoe, and another was hit by falling boxes, but Amazon failed to document these incidents, as reported by OSHA.
Amazon’s spokesperson, Nantel, dismissed the violations as “minor infractions” in her statement.
“Our prime focus is the safety of our employees, and we allocate hundreds of millions annually to ensure we have a comprehensive safety program in place to safeguard them,” she said.
“Accurate record-keeping forms a crucial aspect of this program and, while we accept that there may have been few administrative errors over the years, we have confidence in the figures we have reported to the government.”
OSHA stated that its probe, which extends to five states, is still in progress. The inquiry was initiated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which is examining safety risks related to Amazon’s work pace and “possible fraudulent conduct designed to conceal injuries,” as stated in a press release. Both matters have been covered extensively in Reveal’s reports.
In response to Reveal demonstrating that Amazon’s injury rates considerably exceed the industry average for warehousing, company officials asserted that the high rates were a result of meticulous record-keeping. However, Amazon has a track record of underreporting injuries and has misled the public about the scope of its safety issues.
CONTACT PARKER WAICHMAN LLP FOR A FREE CASE REVIEW
Were you or a loved one harmed in an accident? Parker Waichman LLP helps families recover monetary compensation for harm caused by negligence. For your free consultation, contact our law firm today by using our live chat or calling 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
New York | Brooklyn | Queens | Long Island | New Jersey | Florida
Call us at: 1-800-YOURLAWYER (800-968-7529) | Schedule your free consultation