Two bills aimed at improving working conditions — particularly at Amazon offices and warehouses — have stalled in the Washington Legislature.
One of the bills, Senate Bill 5130, would penalize employers that refuse to share personnel files with workers when requested, while the other, Senate Bill 5891, would require employers to share more information about worker quotas in warehouses, part of an effort to protect workers from injury. Both bills have been removed from consideration during the ongoing legislative session, which is expected to wrap up in early March.
Sen. Patty Kuderer, a Bellevue Democrat and employment lawyer who sponsored SB 5130, introduced it to more clearly define personnel files and hold employers accountable if they failed to hand them over to workers. Washington workers already have a right to their personnel records, but the law doesn’t specify what needs to be disclosed or the consequences for ignoring requests.
“Most of what was in the bill is already required by (Department of) Labor & Industries rules, but what is still needed is a process for employees to ensure compliance,” Kuderer said. “Without that, for some employers those rules are just words on paper.”
The legislation would’ve given businesses 14 days to disclose personnel files to employees who request them or face fines of up to $1,000. Personnel files included documents like job applications, performance evaluations and disciplinary records.
First introduced in January 2021, the bill also stalled in the Washington Legislature last year amid concerns it would drive up business costs and encourage litigation.
“Unfortunately, once again corporate disinformation won over truth, and even though we had broad support for the bill, it wasn’t enough,” Kuderer said.
Sen. Steve Conway, a Democrat representing Tacoma, hoped to require employers to disclose more information about quotas that workers at large warehouses are expected to meet. Conway’s bill was part of an effort to ensure those requirements don’t violate workers’ health and safety rights by encouraging them to skip breaks or cut corners to meet the threshold.
At a public hearing following the legislation’s introduction, some business groups and Republican Sen. Curtis King, from Yakima, argued the bill was too broad and repeated regulations already enforced by Washington’s labor department.
In proposing the legislation, Conway pointed to the high injury rate for warehouse workers, particularly at facilities for one of Washington’s largest employers: Amazon. “We need to address the problem,” he said.
The Washington Senate moved both bills out of consideration for this legislative session, spokespeople for the sponsors behind each bill said Thursday. Conway could not be reached for comment.