Amazon faces nearly $6 million in fines over California labor law violations

The company failed to properly notify its warehouse workers about their expected quotas.


The California Labor Commissioner's office has fined Amazon $5,901,700 for infractions related to a law designed to protect warehouse workers. Under the state's AB-701 law, large companies are required to tell warehouse or distribution center workers in writing what their expected quotas are, including how often they should perform particular tasks, and what consequences they may face for failing to meet those quotas.

This law was a reaction to stories from Amazon workers who said they would skip bathroom breaks or risk injury in order to maximize their output. "The hardworking warehouse employees who have helped sustain us during these unprecedented times should not have to risk injury or face punishment as a result of exploitative quotas that violate basic health and safety," Governor Gavin Newsom said when he signed the bill in 2021.

According to the California Labor Commissioner, Amazon failed to meet those rules at two of its facilities in the cities of Moreno Valley and Redlands, with 59,017 violations logged during the labor office's inspections. It's one of the first big fines levied thanks to AB-701, which took effect in January 2022. The tech giant claimed it did not need to provide written information because it uses a "peer-to-peer system."

"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 García-Brower said in an official statement. "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."

The AB701 bill was passed by the state in September 2021, headed up by State Assembly rep Lorena Gonzalez. She was also a part of passing California's AB-5 bill in 2019 to seek better protections for gig workers at companies such as Uber and Lyft.

Amazon spokesperson Maureen Lynch Vogel told Engadget, however, that the company disagrees with the allegations made in the citations and have already appealed the fines. "The truth is, we don't have fixed quotas," Vogel continued. "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."

Update, June 18, 2024, 8:48PM ET: We've updated this post's headline to correct the fine Amazon is facing. We regret the error. We've also added a statement from Amazon.