Amazon Fined $5.9 Million For Alleged Warehouse Safety Violations

California’s labor commissioner has fined Amazon $5.9 million for allegedly violating the state’s new warehouse safety law.

Officials announced Tuesday that they had issued citations to the online retail giant for failing to disclose productivity quotas to employees at two distribution centers in Southern California. 

Under a law enacted in 2021, employers who operate warehouses in the state must tell workers in writing the number of tasks they’re expected to perform in an hour, as well as how they might be punished if they fail to do so. The law is meant to prevent injuries or unfair discipline.

Amazon spokesperson Maureen Lynch Vogel said in an emailed statement that the company disputes the allegations and has already appealed the fines. 

“The truth is, we don’t have fixed quotas,” Lynch Vogel said. “At Amazon, individual performance is evaluated over a long period of time, in relation to how the entire site’s team is performing.” 

She added, “Employees can — and are encouraged to — review their performance whenever they wish.”

Amazon has been criticized for years for the work pace in its fulfillment centers.
Amazon has been criticized for years for the work pace in its fulfillment centers. via Associated Press

For years, Amazon has faced criticism for the work pace in its logistics operation, where workers pick, pack and ship items that go out to customers. Labor groups and Democrats supported the passage of California’s warehouse safety law, which New York later mimicked with a version of its own. 

California Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower said Amazon had claimed it complied with the law because it used a “peer-to-peer evaluation system” rather than firm production quotas across the workforce. But García-Brower said the Amazon system still violates the law.

“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,” she said.

She added that failing to disclose quotas can lead to higher injury rates and force workers to skip breaks they’re legally entitled to.

Officials began their investigation of the warehouses in September 2022, eventually documenting what they said to be 59,017 violations in a nearly five-month period. The warehouse safety law allows for a $100 penalty for each violation, amounting to nearly $6 million.

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office said it was assisted in its investigation by the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, a non-union group that advocates for warehouse employees in California’s Inland Empire, one of the nation’s largest logistics hubs. 

Mindy Acevedo, a staff attorney for the group, credited “courageous workers” for “sounding the alarm.”

“We heard from workers that not only were they required to work at an unsafe pace, there was little transparency around work expectations,” Acevedo said in a statement.

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