Amazon fined nearly $6 million over labor quotas at its warehouse

A California labor regulator said Tuesday it has fined Amazon nearly $6 million for thousands of violations of a safety law that took effect in 2022.

The measure, known as the Warehouse Quotas Law, allows workers to request written explanations of productivity quotas that apply to them, as well as explanations of the disciplinary action they may face if they fail to meet quotas.

The state labor commissioner’s office said Amazon violated the law more than 59,000 times at two Southern California warehouses between October and March.

The system Amazon used in the two warehouses “is exactly the kind of system the Warehouse Quotas Law was designed to prevent,” Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower said in a statement.

An Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement that the company had appealed the fines and denied that the company had “fixed quotas.” The spokeswoman, Maureen Lynch Vogel, said that “individual performance is evaluated over a long period of time, in relation to how the entire site team is performing,” and that employees “can review their performance whenever they want.”

California law also imposes quotas that restrict workers’ ability to take state-mandated breaks or use the restroom, or prevent employers from complying with state health and safety laws.

Experts have said the law was one of the first in the country to regulate warehouse quotas monitored by algorithms and require employers to make the quotas transparent to workers. The penalties announced Tuesday are the largest imposed under the law.

The labor commissioner’s office said the investigation was assisted by a labor advocacy group, the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, which issued a statement quoting an employee at one of the sanctioned Amazon facilities describing significant pressure to meet quotas.

“If you don’t scan enough items, you get fined,” said the employee, Carrie Stone. “This happened to me. I was fined because I didn’t reach the standard. They said I was one point short, but I didn’t even know what the target was.”

Other Amazon workers raised similar concerns as the Legislature debated the bill in 2021, and studies continued work advocacy groups have shown that Amazon has significantly more serious injuries than other warehouse employers, such as Walmart.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Amazon several times in recent years expose workers to ergonomic injuries and over keep record for such injuries, and the Department of Justice investigates whether the company made false statements about its safety performance when applying for loans.

Amazon has cited hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in safety improvements in recent years, including more than $300 million in 2021.

Other states, such as New York And Washingtonhave since passed similar bills, and Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, introduced a federal version last month.

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