Amazon hit with $5.9 million fine for violating California labor law


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An Amazon warehouse
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California’s labor regulator on Tuesday said it fined Amazon nearly $6 million for violating a state law aimed at curtailing the use of onerous warehouse productivity quotas.

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office said it investigated two Amazon facilities in Moreno Valley and Redlands, both located east of Los Angeles, and found 59,017 violations of the state’s Warehouse Quotas law, officials said. Productivity quotas have become a common source of consternation among Amazon workers.

The Warehouse Quotas law went into effect in 2022 and requires employers to disclose productivity quotas to employees and government agencies, as well as any discipline workers may face for not meeting them. The law also prohibits employers from requiring warehouse employees to meet unsafe quotas preventing them from taking state-mandated meal and rest breaks or using the bathroom.

Amazon “failed to provide written notice of quotas,” the Labor Commissioner’s office said Tuesday. The company argued it doesn’t need quotas because it uses a “peer-to-peer evaluation system,” officials said.

“The peer-to-peer system that Amazon was using in these two warehouses is exactly the kind of system that the Warehouse Quotas law was put in place to prevent,” Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower said in a statement.

Amazon has in recent years faced scrutiny over how it treats its warehouse and delivery employees. Regulators and critics have specifically zeroed in on the pace of work, arguing that the speed requirements put workers at greater risk of injury.

Washington safety regulators in 2022 fined Amazon for “willfully” violating workplace safety laws by requiring employees to work at such a fast pace that it put them at higher risk of musculoskeletal disorders, or problems like sprains and strains, that are often caused by repetitive tasks. The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has also cited Amazon numerous times for safety violations. Amazon has said it would appeal all the citations.

States including New York, Washington and Minnesota have passed similar regulations, and a federal bill was introduced last month by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

Amazon, the second-largest private employer in the U.S., has previously said it doesn’t use fixed quotas. Rather, the company said, it relies on “performance expectations” that factor in multiple indicators, such as how certain teams at a site are performing. It’s also disputed allegations that employees don’t get enough breaks.

Amazon has also defended its safety record. The company said in March that its injury rates have improved, and it announced plans to invest more than $750 million in safety initiatives this year.

Maureen Lynch Vogel, an Amazon spokesperson, said the company disagrees with the allegations and has has filed an appeal.

“The truth is, we don’t have fixed quotas,” she wrote in an email. “At Amazon, individual performance is evaluated over a long period of time, in relation to how the entire site’s team is performing. Employees can – and are encouraged to – review their performance whenever they wish. They can always talk to a manager if they’re having trouble finding the information.”

WATCH: Amazon’s worker safety hazards come under fire from regulators and the DOJ

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