Amazon’s business model relies on a high-turnover employment system that leaves associates constantly anxious about being written up or terminated, and confused about expectations, rights, and benefits on the job. Policies and benefits are not readily available for associates, even for those who request them from HR, and disciplinary policies in particular are subjectively applied at the discretion of each Area Manager.
What’s more, Amazon executives use cryptic acronyms and terms to mask their inhumane associate policies. They do this to mislead the general public and prospective associates into believing their policies are beneficial instead of harmful.
Below is a guide to Amazon jargon, created by United for Respect and ATHENA, with terms defined and discussed by Amazon warehouse associates we have spoken with.
Amazon associates themselves note that every facility has different policies that may diverge from descriptions below.
How Amazon Exerts Control Over Associates
Injured at Amazon or Need Time Off - Good Luck
The Hirers, The Firers, And The Decision-Makers
Types of Facilities
Types of Time Off
Types of Overtime
Amazon’s associate safety crisis is a direct result of Amazon’s punitive management practices that use constant surveillance and threat of termination to push associates to the breaking point; the company’s use of retaliation and union busting that prevents associates from advocating for safer conditions; and the high-turnover model that prioritizes profit over safety, even during natural disasters and extreme weather.
Below are some examples of these punitive management practices.
Amazon calls it the Associate Development And Performance Tool. Associates describe it as “what gives associates anxiety and panic attacks because they think they may not meet their Rate”
How it works:
Amazon associates who are processing packages at the expected speed get cards with two scores: 1) ADAPT and 2) Goal.
‘ADAPT’ is the benchmark Rate, or the minimum Rate, associates have to meet when processing orders. ‘Goal’ is typically a rate above that. After 6 weeks, associates are expected to meet ‘Goal’ or better. The lowest 3% (or 5%, or 10%, depending on the facility) of associates who do not make their Rate get written up. Even if associates are injured or require accommodations, they are expected to make the same Rate. As soon as people miss their Rate benchmarks, they are given an ADAPT and are on the chopping block where the smallest mishap can lead to termination.
Defects Per Million Opportunities, also known as Quality Errors, or “An arbitrary excuse managers use to pick on associates”
Human errors that associates may make. Not necessarily cause for writeup, used more as a way to keep people on their toes. Intentionally obscure in name because anything can be considered DPMO. For example, if an associate scans the wrong item, they get flagged for DPMO and can get a verbal warning.
Productivity quota, or speed at which each associate is expected to process packages in a given timeframe
If an associate doesn’t process packages at the expected speed, they are at risk of getting a write up – potentially resulting in termination.
“Everyone knows an associate who gets terminated after just one write up.” – Amazon associate
Borrowed from the German word Taktzeit, meaning ‘cycle time’
Time it takes for an associate to perform a single task in their job (e.g., 30 seconds to pick one item). It is well known that if an associate doesn’t meet their TAKT time, they will not make Rate, which can result in a write-up.
“For the day, you are expected to meet a rate of XX packages per shift and your TAKT time has to be under 30 seconds. If you’re not keeping up, you risk getting a write up or a coaching.” – Amazon associate
TOT or Idle Time
Time Off Task, or “A way to surveil associates’ every move”
Measured by the time between subsequent scans, used to determine how much time an associate spends away from their station or not actively doing their job. Now being called “idle time” in some facilities, or Time Logged Incident (TLI). For example, if an associate needs to go to the bathroom and they spend 2 minutes walking to the bathroom, 5 minutes in the bathroom, and 2 minutes walking back to their station, they get 9 minutes logged as TOT. In facilities the size of football fields, associates may take longer to get to and from the bathroom. In some facilities, associates may get a verbal warning if they are away from their station longer than 6 minutes in a given shift.
There aren’t streamlined processes in place for associates to request leave, request accommodations, or report an injury. With so many ‘systems’ in place, associates describe feeling like they’re in a maze trying to find the answers they need.
Below are a few of the systems Amazon claims to have available to support associates.
A tool that Amazon associates are told to use to request time off, vacation, and leave requests. Amazon associates describe it as “The black hole”
Submitting any requests via the HUB may mean your request will get lost or ignored.
OMR or Amcare
Onsite Medical Representative, or “Where they send injured associates so they don’t call 911”
These people are supposed to have an EMT degree and work under the supervision of a physician but are usually not licensed medical professionals and are not adequately trained to provide medical care. Amcare infamously doesn’t have notes or records of associate visits, and does not report them to the government (which led to Amazon being cited by the Department of Labor for record keeping failures).
Most of the time, managers have never worked as an Amazon associate and are unfamiliar with Rate and TOT, yet are expected to enforce it. Due to the inhumane working conditions, the turnover rate for managers is high and associates are seldom promoted to the position, even those who have worked at the company for years.
Computer program used for people to apply to work at Amazon. The program doesn’t require information about accommodations and doesn’t specify what the labor will entail (i.e. lifting 45lb items every hour). People are hired through Amazon Force but are not told about Rate, TOT, etc. until orientation.
General Manager (GM)
“The person who oversees everything”
Head management of each facility. These are usually people who have never worked as an Amazon Associate.
Assistant General Manager (AGM)
“Another person who oversees everything”
Assistant to the GM. These are also usually people who have never worked as an Amazon Associate.
Senior Operations Manager (Senior OM)
“Yet another person who oversees things”
Oversee various departments. Also usually people who have never worked as an Amazon Associate.
Operations Manager (OM)
“Also someone who oversees things”
Oversee various departments. Also usually people who have never worked as an Amazon Associate.
Area Manager (AM)
“The person associates identify as the supervisor”
Director supervisor for a department who decides and communicates what needs to be done for the day. Identifies when an associate doesn’t meet Rate, and can terminate people.
PA (Process Assistant) or PG (Process Guide)
“The person who is under the most pressure” or “Bottom of the management food chain”
An Amazon associate classified as what is known as the T3 position at Amazon. They help identify where staff shifts need to happen to keep the work flowing efficiently. If quotas aren’t being met, the PA gets reprimanded.
Cross Docks (XD)
Receive big loads of inventory and decide how much of what goes to each FC
Fulfillment Center (FC)
Inventory comes in and is sorted, stowed, packed, and sent to docks to be delivered to next facility
Sort Center (SC)
After inventory leaves FC, it goes to SC to be sorted into regions and sent to a DC
Delivery Center (DC)
DC takes inventory off trucks, divides them up, and puts them in cars to be delivered to customers by a Delivery Service Provider (DSP driver or independent contractor that manages deliveries of items, which can be seen as blue Amazon vans driving around your neighborhood. DSPs allow Amazon off the hook because drivers and deliverers are not technically employed by Amazon, and thus don’t have the same wages/benefits as Amazon associates, nor does Amazon have any liability toward them.)
“It’s always confusing for associates to know which type of leave to take, how to take it, what their balance is, and how much they can get paid during it.” – Amazon associate
Mandatory Time Off (MTO)
“Hours associates won’t get paid for”
If there’s not enough work at the facility, management may tell you to go home for the day. There’s no guarantee associates can make up the hours they lost. Associates are told they’ll get paid for having to take MTO but sometimes they are not paid.
Voluntary Time Off (VTO)
“Coerced time off”
Not actually voluntary. Unpaid. When there isn’t enough work to do, managers will sometimes threaten associates by telling them they’ll have to do tasks outside of their job description, like sweeping the floors, if they stay to work their full shift.
Paid Time Off (PTO)
“Time off that gets accrued, used the fastest, and is never enough when most needed, like during peak season”
Associates accrue PTO at a rate of 40 hours in a year, depending on their seniority. Can be requested and approved the day of.
Unpaid Time Off (UPT)
“Time theft from associates” and “The way most associates get fired”
A bank of hours associates accrue at the rate of 20 hours/quarter, 80 hours/year for full-time associates; 10 hours/quarter, 40 hours/year for part-time employees and can be used to get out of working mandatory overtime or mandatory extra time without getting written up. Associates depend on UPT during “peak” season (like Prime Week and the holiday season) when they are often required to work overtime with little to no notice. Also used to cover for time lost when an associate is late to work. It is measured in whole hours, so if associates are 10 minutes late to work, for example, they lose an entire hour of UPT. When associates have a negative UPT balance, they may get terminated.
“Another time off ‘benefit’ that gets accrued but often unused, especially when most needed”
Gets denied during “peak” season, between mid-October and the new year. Must be requested 2 weeks in advance.
Annual Accrual Rates for Hourly Employees (Biweekly Accrual)
|Years Worked||Part Time (20-29 hours per week)||Reduced Time (30-39 hours per week)||Full Time (40+ hours per week)|
Leave Of Absence (LOA)
“When can’t request vacation time, associates turn to this option”
Most associates struggle to get this approved. During peak when associates can’t request vacation, they seek LOA. If an associate asks for accommodations because of injury, Amazon puts them on a paid leave of absence and short-term disability (STD) (at 60% pay). Leave is unpaid if for other reasons outside STD or LTD (long-term disability).
Personal Leave Of Absence (PLOA)
“Usually the easiest to request and get approved”
Unpaid leave associates can take for personal reasons, including mental health, for a minimum of 14 days. Associates often depend on taking a PLOA to rest and recover from injuries or exhaustion. Associates are not sure how many PLOAs they are allowed to take in a year as the information is not readily available to them.
Mandatory Extra / Over Time (MET / MOT)
“Some love it, most hate it”
Paid at overtime rate (1.5x) if an associate has already worked 40 hours in that week. Each associate designates a non-working day that they are on call for MET or MOT. Amazon is required to make calls for MET/MOT in the afternoon of the day prior. If an associate can’t make it, they are forced to take paid or unpaid time off. If an associate doesn’t have any more UPT and can’t show up to work overtime, they can be terminated (but again, this rule is not always applied equally across the board). Associates are required to work MET/MOT during “peak” season and the holiday season. If they can’t work MET/MOT, they must have enough UPT hours to excuse them or risk getting written up.
Voluntary Over Time / Extra Time (VOT / VET)
“Some love it, most ignore it when they don’t want to work overtime”
Paid at overtime rate (1.5x) if an associate has already worked 40 hours in that week. Before associates are called in for MET/MOT, Amazon may ask associates if anyone is willing to voluntarily fill the needed slots.