New California law seeks workplace quota transparency

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A new law takes effect in California on Jan. 1 that could change how companies like Amazon use data to manage warehouse workers.

Companies like Amazon often use algorithms and tracking data to set productivity quotas, according to University of California, Riverside, professor Ellen Reese, who co-edited a book about Amazon.

“Many warehouse workers felt like they couldn’t work both efficiently and safely, like they can’t use the bathroom when they need to,” she said.

Amazon didn’t respond to a question about quotas.

The new California law will require more transparency from big warehouse operators about how they use technology to track productivity so that it doesn’t interfere with things like mandated breaks or safety.

“There’s so much opaqueness around algorithms, and as a worker, you don’t have a lot of insight into all of that,” said professor Lindsey Cameron, who studies the future of work at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

She said other government entities are also looking at how to regulate these emerging technologies at work.

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