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California passes bill targeting Amazon’s algorithm-driven rules

California has passed a landmark bill aiming at Amazon and the controversial, algorithm-driven rules that govern the lives of its warehouse workers, the media reported.

The first-of-its-kind law was passed by the state Senate this week and will soon land on the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom, who has not yet signalled whether he will sign it.

Under the bill, warehouses will be required to disclose to government agencies, and to the employees, the quotas and metrics used to track workers, the Guardian reported on Friday.

It would ban penalties for “time off-task”, which discourage workers from using the bathroom or taking other necessary breaks, while also prohibiting retaliation against workers who complain, the report said.

Though the bill applies to all warehouse jobs in California, its passage has called attention to Amazon, where workers have described brutal conditions under which productivity metrics are key and every move is surveilled.

Some have even reported having to urinate in bottles on the job to avoid being penalised for taking time to use the bathroom.

A former Amazon warehouse worker Yesenia Barrera, who now organises with the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, said that workers at the tech behemoth live in fear of being fired for being marked as having too much “time off-task” or working too slowly.

The law comes as Amazon is increasingly facing pressure to address concerns about its warehouse conditions.

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