Written by 11:21 Business

Amazon Is Fined Nearly $6 Million Over Warehouse Work Quotas

A California labor regulator said on Tuesday that it had fined Amazon nearly $6 million for thousands of violations of a safety law that took effect in 2022.

The measure, known as the Warehouse Quotas Law, lets employees request written explanations of any productivity quotas that apply to them, as well as explanations of any discipline they may face in failing to meet the quotas.

The state labor commissioner’s office said Amazon violated the law more than 59,000 times at two Southern California warehouses between October and March.

The system that Amazon used in the two warehouses “is exactly the kind of system that the Warehouse Quotas Law was put in place to prevent,” the labor commissioner, Lilia García-Brower, said in a statement.

An Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement that the company had appealed the penalties and denied that the company used “fixed quotas.” The spokeswoman, Maureen Lynch Vogel, said that “individual performance is evaluated over a long period of time, in relation to how the entire site’s team is performing,” and that workers can “review their performance whenever they wish.”

The California law also proscribes quotas that interfere with employees’ ability to take state-mandated breaks or use the bathroom, or that prevent employers from following state health and safety laws.

Experts have said the law was among the first in the country to regulate warehouse quotas that are monitored by algorithms and to require employers to make the quotas transparent to workers. The penalties announced on Tuesday are the largest issued under the law.

The labor commissioner’s office said its investigation had been assisted by a labor advocacy group, the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, which issued a statement quoting a worker at one of the penalized Amazon facilities who described significant pressure to hit quotas.

“If you don’t scan enough items you will get written up,” said the worker, Carrie Stone. “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.”

Other Amazon workers raised similar concerns while the Legislature debated the bill in 2021, and studies by labor advocacy groups have shown that Amazon has significantly higher rates of serious injury than other warehouse employers, like Walmart.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Amazon several times in recent years for exposing workers to ergonomic injuries and over record-keeping for such injuries, and the Justice Department is investigating whether the company made false representations about its safety record when applying for loans.

Amazon has cited hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of investments in safety improvements in recent years, including more than $300 million in 2021.

Other states, like New York and Washington, have since enacted similar laws, and Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, introduced a federal version last month.

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Last modified: 22 June 2024
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