New York State In-depth

UPDATE 1-Amazon claims stock quotas are biased against older workers

(added amazon explanation)

By Daniel Wiessner

Jan 27 (Reuters) – Inc on Friday won the bid to dismiss a proposed class action lawsuit alleging that its strict production quotas for warehouse workers discriminate against older workers.

U.S. Judge Kandis Westmore in Oakland said the 2021 lawsuit, alleging that the online retailer’s hourly rates put older workers at greater risk of injury, was too vague and failed to identify specific discriminatory policies.

“Just because physical strength declines with age doesn’t mean that older workers are more likely to get injured or miss quotas,” Westmore wrote.

Amazon spokeswoman Barbara Agrait said in a statement the claim that the company was imposing quotas on workers was a misunderstanding, and workers could take informal breaks during their shifts to stretch or go to the bathroom.

“We don’t require employees to meet specific productivity speeds or goals,” Agrait said. “We evaluate performance based on safe and achievable expectations.”

Plaintiff’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit states that Amazon requires warehouse workers to move 150 to 300 items through their work stations every hour, depending on their job responsibilities. Workers can be disciplined or fired if they miss quotas or spend too much time on tasks.

The lawsuit alleged that the quotas constitute age discrimination that violates California law because workers age 49 and older are more susceptible to injuries, including those resulting from frequently repetitive motion.

Westmore allowed Amazon’s motion to dismiss the case, saying it would be inappropriate to conclude that older workers are more likely to be injured simply because of their age.

Amazon has been criticized by employees, lawmakers and union organizers for putting profits ahead of worker safety by enforcing production quotas.

Last week, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it had subpoenaed Amazon because it put workers at three warehouses at risk by exposing them to ergonomic hazards that resulted in serious injuries.

Amazon, which faces fines of up to $60,000, says it invests hundreds of millions of dollars annually to keep workers safe. (Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Angus MacSwan and Rosalba O’Brien)

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