California Passes Law Marking a Dramatic Shift in Warehouse Worker Quotas
On September 22, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a groundbreaking bill that affects warehouse distribution centers (“covered employers”) and their employees.
Effective January 1, 2022, AB 701, requires covered employers to provide nonexempt employees with a written description of each quota that the employee is subject to, including the number of tasks to be performed, or materials to be produced or handled, and any potential adverse employment action that could result from failure to meet the quota. The disclosures must be made at the time of hire, or within 30 days of the effective date of the law.
Under AB 701, an employee cannot be required to meet a quota that prevents them from taking timely meal breaks or rest periods, using bathroom facilities, or complying with certain occupational health and safety laws. Employers are prohibited from taking adverse action against an employee for failing to meet a quota that has not been disclosed, or for failing to meet a quota that does not permit a worker to take meal breaks or rest periods or to comply with the specified health and safety laws.
The bill also provides current and former employees the right to request a written description of each applicable quota and a copy of the employee’s own personal work speed data from the most recent 90 day period, if the employee believes that meeting a quota caused a violation of their meal or rest period periods or required them to violate any occupational health and safety law or standard. If a worker is disciplined within 90 days of requesting this data or complaining to their employer or a state agency about an unsafe quota, AB 701 creates a presumption that the action was retaliatory.
A current or former employee can seek injunctive relief to suspend a covered employer’s non-compliance with AB 701’s requirements. The bill also gives the California Labor Commissioner the authority to enforce the law through citations, as well as access to employer-reported injury data and enforcement actions in warehouses, the identity of uninsured employers, and employers who are allegedly engaged in workers’ compensation fraud, wage theft, or other information relevant to the commissioner’s authority to enforce the bill.
We will continue to monitor developments from California that may provide further guidance on compliance with and enforcement of AB 701. In the meantime, covered employers should prepare written descriptions, as required by the law, and be prepared to respond to employee requests for personal work speed data.