Amazon fined $5.9 million for allegedly violating California's warehouse quota law

Leticia Juarez Image
Wednesday, June 19, 2024
Amazon fined $5.9M for allegedly violating CA's warehouse quota law
Amazon was fined $5.9 million for allegedly not providing workers at its Moreno Valley and Redlands warehouses with written work quotas.

ONTARIO, Calif. (KABC) -- Amazon promises its U.S. Prime members access to thousands of products delivered to them either the same or the following day. However, some employees say that speed comes at a cost to them.

"We are humans. Our safety is important to us, but they treat us like one of their robots," said Nanette Plascencia who has worked at the Moreno Valley Amazon facility for 10 years and learned of the Warehouse Quota Law from the news.

But she says when she asked her management about it, she and others were told the new law didn't apply to them. It turns out it did apply.

Amazon was fined $5.9 million for allegedly not providing workers at its Moreno Valley and Redlands warehouses with written work quotas.

The California Department of Industrial Relations says it sent letters to warehouse employers letting them know of the new law, which went into effect in 2022. The department says it conducted 650 compliance visits throughout the state.

"We had overwhelming compliance by many of these employers impacting thousands," said California Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower.

But an investigation at the two San Bernardino County Amazon warehouses found a total of 59,017 violations from October 2023 to March 2024.

"So almost half of the workers have unfortunately been exposed to unsafe working conditions in the violations of AB701," said Garcia-Brower.

The law requires warehouse employers to provide written quotas that include the number of tasks they need to perform per hour and any discipline that could come from not meeting the quota.

"They keep us in the dark about our rates for the day, and they write us up when we miss the mysterious targets," said Carrie Stone, who works at the Moreno Valley warehouse.

The law also provides protections against dangerous work speeds and unfair quotas.

"My manager would come to me on the floor and tell me I am performing at the bottom 5 and I need to pick up the pace. He would practically stand outside the bathroom and get people to hurry back to work," said Veronica Kern, who works at the Moreno Valley warehouse.

Kern says sometimes, the stress would become too much, she had to simply let it out.

"Sometimes, I find myself in the scream room. Amazon calls it the 'Zen room,' but we use the room to scream," she said.

Employees turned to the nonprofit Warehouse Resource Center in Ontario to learn about their rights under the new law. The nonprofit group assisted the Labor Commissioner's investigation.

"Workers were no longer supposed to have to work at a pace that interfered with their ability to take their breaks or to keep their work area safe," explained Mindy Acevedo, an attorney with the Warehouse Workers Resource Center. "Let alone face discipline for not meeting quotas that were never disclosed to them."

In a statement issued by Maureen Lynch Vogel, an Amazon spokesperson, she said, "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."