Amazon Fined $6 Million by California For Risking Workers’ Safety

The state of California last week fined Amazon $5.9 million, accusing the online retail giant of overworking its warehouse employees to the point where their safety was placed at risk.

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office issued two citations to Services LLC in May for violating the state’s Warehouse Quota Law at its facilities in San Bernadino and Riverside Counties.

The law requires employers to provide warehouse workers “written notice of any quotas” they must meet, including how many tasks must be performed each hour, and the discipline they might face if they failed to meet the quota.

The Labor Commissioner’s Office fined Amazon $4.7 million for violations at its Moreno Valley distribution warehouse and another $1.2 million for violations at its Redlands warehouse.

In a June 18 statement, Amazon spokeswoman Maureen Lynch Vogal said the company disputed the labor commissioner’s allegations and had appealed the citations.

Lynch insisted the company does not “have fixed quotas” for workers at its warehouses, and explained that “individual performance is evaluated” based on “how the entire site’s team is performing.” She said Amazon employees are encouraged to “review their performance whenever they wish” and could speak with a manager if they have difficulty “finding the information.”

Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower said the state’s quotas law was enacted to prevent the “kind of system” Amazon has in place. She said by not disclosing quotas, Amazon pressured its warehouse employees to “work faster” and “skip breaks,” which could lead to “higher injury rates” and other labor violations.

The state’s labor commission began investigating Amazon in 2022 after two of its warehouse employees claimed that the company had unfair quota practices.

Warehouse quota laws similar to California’s have also been enacted in New York, Washington, Minnesota, and Oregon.

Last month, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey introduced federal legislation protecting warehouse workers.