The four citations against celebrity hunter RadarOnline came as the latest in a series of questions about the care and treatment of the octuplets born to a single, jobless mother who had lived on government disability payments for years.
"These babies were put at risk and exposed to conditions that violated California labor laws," state Labor Commissioner Angela Bradstreet said about the ongoing investigation. "In this case, we are dealing with premature babies."
The violations deal with a single day, March 17, and two of the newborns, Noah and Isaiah Suleman, who were the first of the octuplets to be brought home from a hospital to the Los Angeles suburb of La Habra.
RadarOnline, which had a secret deal to chronicle the mother of 14 and her newest babies over seven weeks, was cited for failing to get required state permits, videotaping the infants at hours and for periods of time banned by regulation, and for failing to provide a monitor to watch over them during taping sessions.
The Web site said in an online posting it was conducting a newsgathering operation and was not required to obtain permits or restrict its operation to certain hours.
The statement did not address payments to Suleman outlined in its contract with her.
But regulators concluded the deal went far beyond incidental news coverage. Bradstreet said the deal "was a ... whole production that was controlled, and has been controlled, by RadarOnline."
RadarOnline can contest the citations, which name only the Web site and carry possible penalties totaling as much as $3,000. Calls to Suleman's lawyer, Jeff Czech, were not immediately returned.
Suleman, a divorced mother, gave birth to the octuplets nine weeks premature on Jan. 26. She already had six children, ages 2 to 7.
The births set off media frenzy that quickly turned to public scorn with revelations that Suleman was not working and had conceived all her children through in vitro fertilization.
The Web site deal transformed Suleman's life into chaotic spectacle. RadarOnline has posted more than 100 items about Suleman and her octuplets, many of which include video.
The footage ranges widely, from her squabbles with her mother, to a trip to Disneyland with her daughter in tow, to her vow of celibacy and other details of her personal life.
She has worked her way through a series of public relations handlers and provided antic theater on the "Dr. Phil" McGraw show, which staged a baby shower for her.
McGraw mediated a squabble between Suleman and a nursing team that offered to help care for the babies, without cost. She later fired them.
In short order, the mother who gave birth to the longest-surviving set of octuplets was ridiculed across a host of Web sites. The so-called Octomom was lampooned in a rap music video, and angry citizens threatened to kill her publicists.
Suleman signed a confidential contract with RadarOnline in April that bars her from providing interviews with other information outlets. She is not allowed to say anything disparaging about RadarOnline for two years, according to the contract, which was reviewed by The Associated Press.
Suleman's fees were initially to be held in escrow. The amounts were redacted from the copy.
The agreement said Suleman wouldn't get paid until she provided material at least five days a week, for at least 30 minutes a day, over seven weeks. A separate fee would be paid for access during the homecoming for the last newborn released by the hospital, according to the contract.
Chris Myers of RadarOnline said he hadn't seen the citations and had no immediate comment. The site's executive vice president, David Perel, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Suleman has faced other public scrutiny in the past. Her workers compensation files were revealed through a public records request, and RadarOnline revealed that child welfare inspectors had visited the home based on a complaint.
Suleman is being sued by attorney Gloria Allred, who asked for a labor investigation and the establishment of a trust for the children on behalf of former child entertainer Paul Petersen, president of a group dedicated to the protection of child performers.
Regulators said they started the investigation independently.
Allred said Tuesday she welcomed the state labor action.
The octuplets - who at birth weighed from 1 pound, 8 ounces to 3 pounds, 4 ounces - spent their first weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center.
Tuesday's citations marked the second time in recent weeks that reality media has had a run-in with regulators.
Last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor began looking into whether the hit show "Jon & Kate Plus 8" is complying with child labor laws. The TLC series follows Jon and Kate Gosselin as they raise their eight young children, including 8-year-old twins and sextuplets who just turned 5.