California fines Amazon nearly $6 million for violating warehouse worker quota law 

California News Filler

By Naveen Athrappully 
Contributing Writer  

Amazon is facing fines of nearly $6 million after California authorities found that the company was not giving written quotas to its warehouse workers as required by law. 

Amazon was deemed to have violated California’s Warehouse Quotas law for two of its distribution warehouses in Moreno Valley and Redlands, said a Tuesday press release by the state’s Department of Industrial Relations. The law, enacted in 2021, requires warehouse employers to provide workers with written notice of quotas they need to follow. The notice must include the number of tasks workers are expected to complete in an hour and detail the disciplinary actions that would be taken for failing to meet the quota. However, Amazon was found to not have provided the written notices. 

The Labor Commissioner’s Office identified 59,017 violations of the law in the two warehouses over a five-month period between Oct. 20, 2023, and March 9, 2024. Penalties were charged at $100 per violation, with the total penalty coming to $5.9 million. 

Responding to the judgment, Amazon spokesperson Maureen Lynch Vogel said in an emailed statement that the company was appealing the decision. 

“We disagree with the allegations made in the citations and have appealed. The truth is, we don’t have fixed quotas. 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.” 

In March, Amazon said that safety performance in its operations has improved over the past years. The recordable incident rate, which refers to any work-related injury requiring more than basic first aid, registered an improvement of 30% over four years, the company said. 

In addition, the lost time incident rate, referring to work-related injuries that force people to take some time off, improved 60% during this period. Such injuries tend to be serious ones. In general warehousing and storage operations, RIR improved by 24%. LTIR in these operations saw an improvement of 77%, according to the company. 

For 2024, the ecommerce firm set aside $750 million to invest in training, resources, programs and technologies to further safety efforts, the company said. 

Quota Systems 

Amazon told the Labor Commissioner’s Office that the company did not need a quota system as it uses a peer-to-peer evaluation method instead, where co-workers review work performance. 

A peer-to-peer evaluation system could be in violation of the Warehouse Quotas law as it does not clearly establish how many tasks an employee ought to finish in an hour. 

The law also limits quotas that “prevent compliance with meal or rest periods, use of bathroom facilities, or compliance with occupational health and safety laws. 

“A quota may be illegal if it is not disclosed to workers or precludes employees from exercising these statutory rights.” 

Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower said Amazon’s peer-to-peer system is “exactly the kind of system” that the Warehouse Quotas law was designed to prevent. 

Undisclosed quotas put more pressure on employees to work faster, which could force them to skip breaks or result in higher injury rates, she said. 

In a statement to the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, Carrie Stone, who works at Amazon’s ONT8 facility in Moreno Valley, said that the Amazon management “really makes people stress about rate.” 

“If you don’t scan enough items you will get written up. This happened to me. I got written up for not making rate. They said I missed by one point, but I didn’t even know what the target was.” 

Protecting Warehouse Workers 

According to the WWRC, the California Labor Commissioner’s Office has issued fines totaling $7.8 million to five entities, including Amazon, since September 2023 for failing to provide workers with written quota descriptions. 

Following California’s Warehouse Quotas law, other states such as Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Washington have enacted similar legislation. 

In May, Sen. Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, introduced the Warehouse Worker Protection Act that requires written notice of quotas at the national level. 

The measure prohibits “dangerous quotas — including those that rely on constant intrusive surveillance, interfere with workers’ ability to use the bathroom, and take guaranteed breaks — violate health and safety laws, or prevent workers from exercising their right to organize,” according to a Tuesday press release by Markey. 

Pointing to the California Labor Commissioner’s Office’s decision to impose $5.9 million in fines on Amazon, the lawmaker argued that his legislation protects workers from facing similar incidents. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has opposed the bill, calling it “full of bad new ideas.” The bill will require employers to include employee representatives in identifying hazards and other issues, the group noted. 

“This would lead to unions deciding how workplaces will be designed for maximum union benefit,” it said. “The bill would also give unions a greased path to organizing warehouses.” 

The legislation could end up denying employers their due process rights in certain situations, the chamber said. 

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