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Amazon Employee Monitoring Made Public

Vice published an article sharing how Amazon tracks and records warehouse employees. The company looks at how employees spend "time off task." Using the handheld scanners that track customer packages, Amazon managers track employees throughout the warehouse. Managers issue written warnings to employees accumulating at least 30 minutes of time off task in a rolling one-year period. Employees who reach 120 minutes of time off task in a single day or 30 minutes over three separate days may be fired. Vice's tech publication, Motherboard, reviewed the information and found 18 employees fired for accumulating more than 2 hours in a single day over two months in 2020.

Vice reported examples found in documents Amazon filed in a National Labor Relations Board dispute. They show Amazon tracking, down to the minute, time spent by employees in the bathroom, talking to other Amazon associates, going to the wrong floor of a warehouse, and time unaccounted for by the worker. The company asks managers to identify a "top offender" during every shift with the most accumulated time off task and interrogate workers about their whereabouts. In its document, Amazon cited the time off task policy as key to its mission to be the "Earth's most customer-centric company."

Motherboard spoke to Amazon workers who said they skip water and bathroom breaks for fear of discipline and termination. Once a supervisor identifies the top offender each shift, the manager meets with the employees and questions whether they have good reasons that could reduce their time off task calculation. If the employee justifies their time off task, the manager moves on to coach the second-highest offender. Amazon installed video cameras that can verify an employee's location at a given time. Amazon said it uses these metrics to motivate employees and does not intend to create an environment where it writes up its employees. Amazon did not provide a comment on the publication of this information.