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Amazon Fined A$9 Million By US Labor Commissioner

The California Labor Commissioner’s office has fined Amazon A$8,85,2703 (US$5,901,700) for labour law violations in the state.

Under California’s AB-701 law, large companies are required to tell warehouse or distribution centre 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, reported Endgadget.

“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 at the time of signing 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 labour office’s inspections.

The latest fine is believed to be one of the first big fines levied under the AB-701 law which became enforceable in January 2022.

Amazon has claimed that 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.”

Amazon spokesperson Maureen Lynch Vogel told Engadget, however, that the company disagrees with the allegations made in the citations and has already appealed the fine.

“The truth is, we don’t have fixed quotas,” 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. 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.”

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