The California Labor Commissioner's Office has fined Amazon nearly $6 million, accusing the e-commerce giant of violating state labor laws designed to protect warehouse workers from excessive productivity quotas that jeopardize their safety. The fines stem from alleged infractions at two Amazon warehouses located in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, totaling 59,017 violations, according to officials.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, the Labor Commissioner's Office detailed two citations against Services LLC. The company was fined $1.2 million for violations at its Redlands warehouse and $4.7 million at its facility in Moreno Valley. These citations are based on California's Warehouse Quota Law, enacted in 2022, which mandates that employers provide written notice of quotas to employees, specifying the number of tasks they must complete per hour and the potential disciplinary actions for failing to meet these quotas.

"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," stated Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower. "Undisclosed quotas expose workers to increased pressure to work faster and can lead to higher injury rates and other violations by forcing workers to skip breaks."

Amazon, however, denies the allegations. Maureen Lynch Vogel, an Amazon spokesperson, emphasized that the company does not use fixed quotas. "The truth is, we don't have fixed quotas," she said in a statement. "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."

The citations accuse Amazon of failing to provide written notice of quotas to employees, a violation of the Warehouse Quota Law. This law also restricts quotas that prevent compliance with meal or rest periods, use of bathroom facilities, or adherence to occupational health and safety laws. If a quota is not disclosed or impedes workers from exercising these statutory rights, it may be deemed illegal.

The investigation into Amazon's practices began in 2022 following complaints from employees at the two warehouses. The Warehouse Worker Resource Center, a nonprofit advocating for improved working conditions, assisted with the investigation. "Amazon's push for speed leads to high rates of injuries," said Mindy Acevedo, a staff attorney at the center. "AB 701 provides important protections against dangerous work speeds and unfair quota practices, but these citations show Amazon failed to follow fundamental parts of the law."

Acevedo praised the workers who came forward and the Labor Commissioner's swift action. "Courageous workers sounded the alarm about these violations and the Labor Commissioner took prompt action," she stated. "We heard from workers that not only were they required to work at an unsafe pace, there was little transparency around work expectations and they could lose their jobs if they failed to meet these undisclosed quotas."

This is not the first time Amazon has faced scrutiny over its treatment of warehouse and delivery employees. Washington state safety regulators fined Amazon in 2022 for "willfully" violating workplace safety laws by imposing work speeds that increased the risk of musculoskeletal disorders. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has also cited Amazon multiple times for safety violations. Amazon has announced plans to appeal all these citations.

Several other states, including New York, Washington, and Minnesota, have passed similar warehouse regulations, and U.S. Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced a federal warehouse worker protection bill in Congress last month. Amazon, the second-largest private employer in the U.S., claims to have made significant investments in safety initiatives, committing over $750 million this year to improve conditions.