Internal Documents Show Amazon’s Dystopian System for Tracking Workers Every Minute of Their Shifts

On the Clock is Motherboard’s reporting on the organized labor movement, gig work, automation, and the future of work.

Infamously, Amazon punishes and sometimes fires warehouse workers who it believes are wasting time at work. A new filing obtained by Motherboard gives detailed insight into how Amazon tracks and records every minute of “time off task” (which it calls TOT) with radio-frequency handheld scanners that warehouse associates use to track customer packages. 

The documents, filed with the National Labor Relations Board as part of a dispute at the recently-unionized Amazon warehouse in Staten Island called JFK8, reveal that workers can receive a written warning for accumulating 30 minutes of time off task in a day one time in a rolling one-year period. They can be fired if they accumulate 120 minutes of time off task in a single day or if they have accumulated 30 minutes of time off task on three separate days in a one-year period. Examples and sample spreadsheets provided in the documents show Amazon tracking, down to the minute, the amount of time individual workers spent in the bathroom and infractions such as “talking to another Amazon associate,” going to the wrong floor of a warehouse, and, as an example, an 11-minute period where a worker “does not remember” what they were doing. 

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