News & Opinion | April 26, 2019 9:46 am

Amazon’s Tracking Technology Can Automatically Fire Warehouse Workers, No Humans Needed

Supervisors don't even have to sign off on the decision

Amazon headquarters
Amazon finally landed on Virginia for its second home. (Getty)
(Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty)

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Robots aren’t just taking your job, now they can literally fire you from it, too.

A new report revealed that Amazon’s demanding worker tracking system has the capacity to automatically fire warehouse employees for failing to meet productivity standards.

Documents obtained by The Verge revealed that hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers were terminated on these grounds at a single location in Baltimore between August 2017 and September 2018. A spokesperson confirmed to the outlet that an estimated 300 workers at the facility were terminated in that timeframe for “inefficiency.”

To measure productivity, the system tracks a metric called “time off task,” which keeps tabs on how often employees stop to rest or take breaks. If the system finds an employee is failing to meet efficiency standards, it can issue warnings and/or automatically terminate the employee, without any intervention from a human supervisor. While no human input is needed to confirm an employee’s termination by bot, Amazon claimed that supervisors can override the system if they so choose, according to The Verge.

The threat of automatic termination has obviously contributed to Amazon’s infamously demanding working conditions for warehouse employees. According to Business Insider, Amazon warehouse workers have reported feeling so pressured by the company’s rigorous culture of productivity that they avoid even taking bathroom breaks.

Similar pressures pervade other areas of the company’s operations as well, with Amazon delivery drivers revealing they engage in dangerous driving practices in order to keep up with productivity demands. Back in September, Amazon drivers told Business Insider that they’ve driven recklessly, sped through neighborhoods and even urinated in bottles while on the job.

Meanwhile, the productivity pressures workers face only stand to get worse with Amazon’s recently announced push to make one-day delivery the new two-day delivery. “The vast majority of items are available in two days,” chief financial Brian Olsavesky told The Verge. “If we cut that in half…we think it will open up a lot of potential purchases and a lot of convenience.”