Amazon beats claim that warehouse quotas are biased against older workers
By Daniel Wiessner
(Reuters) -Amazon.com Inc on Friday won its bid to dismiss a proposed class action claiming its strict production quotas for warehouse workers discriminate against older employees.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kandis Westmore in Oakland said the 2021 lawsuit, which alleges the online retailer's hourly quotas place older workers at a higher risk of injury, was too vague and failed to identify specific policies that are discriminatory.
"Simply because physical strength declines with age does not automatically mean that older workers are more likely to get injured or fail to keep up with the quotas," Westmore wrote.
Amazon spokesperson Barbara Agrait in a statement said the claim that the company imposes quotas on workers was a misconception, and employees are able to take informal breaks during their shifts to stretch or use the bathroom.
"We do not require employees to meet specific productivity speeds or targets," Agrait said. "We assess performance based on safe and achievable expectations."
Lawyers for the plaintiff did not respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit says Amazon requires warehouse employees to move 150 to 300 items through their work posts each hour, depending on their job duties. Workers can be disciplined or fired for missing quotas or spending too much time off task.
The lawsuit claimed that because workers who are 49 and older are more susceptible to injuries, including those resulting from highly repetitive motions, the quotas amount to age discrimination in violation of California law.
Westmore in granting Amazon's motion to dismiss the case said it would be improper to infer that older workers are more likely to be injured merely because of their age.
Amazon has been criticized by employees, lawmakers and union organizers for putting profits over worker safety by enforcing the production quotas.
Last week, the U.S. workplace safety regulator said it had cited Amazon for placing workers at three warehouses at risk by exposing them to ergonomic hazards that resulted in serious injuries.
Amazon, which faces up to $60,000 in fines, has said it invests hundreds of millions of dollars annually to ensure worker safety.
(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Angus MacSwan and Rosalba O'Brien)