During the 2022 session, the Senate considered SB 5891, which added new and overlapping requirements on warehouse operations for rest and meal breaks, and protections against unsafe working conditions. This bill was modeled after a similar bill in California. SB 5891 failed to pass the Senate. Accordingly, the House never considered the bill.
The House Labor Committee used its September 14 work session to become familiar with the issue. The House Labor Committee Chairman, Mike Sells (D-38), invited Washington Retail (WR) to provide comments at the September 14 work session on warehouse safety and work conditions.
WR’s testimony focused on the following points:
- Our members are committed to safe and healthy working conditions for all employees.
- The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) has ample authority to investigate and enforce unsafe working conditions.
- An employer’s quotas, performance metrics and/or productivity requirements cannot interfere with an employee’s basic rights to rest, meal breaks, and safe working conditions.
- Current law prohibits employers from taking adverse or retaliatory action against an employee who (1) exercises a protected right, (2) who files or intends to file a complaint, (3) who has discussed potential violations of their rights for safe working conditions, rest and meal breaks, or potential violations of wage and hour laws.
Notably, the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) presented data on workers’ compensation claims and investigations that validated WR’s key messages. L&I’s data shows that the Department has ample authority to investigate employee complaints and is actively enforcing protection of employees’ rights for rest, meal breaks, and safe working conditions. L&I did not identify gaps in their existing authority to protect workers’ basic rights.
WR expects legislation to be introduced again in 2023 related to warehouse safety and working conditions.