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A gender discrimination class action lawsuit has just been filed in California against Amazon, which alleges its fulfillment centers are tailored for men, making it difficult for women to reach items on an 8 foot automated pod used in its fulfillment warehouses.

The lead plaintiff in this case is Amy Fujishige a woman, five feet in height, who worked for Amazon at its Fulfillment Center in Sacramento, California from about September 16, 2020, through about July 8, 2021 as a picker and counter. Fujishige alleges she began to run into issues regarding her Productivity Score almost immediately. Being five feet tall, she was not able to pick and scan items at the top of each pod without assistance from a Process Assistant or violating the safety policy against overreaching for items over her head.

But she had to meet the strict Productivity Score standards and stay out of the bottom 5% of Productivity Scores, Thus she would often try to grab highup items without using the stepladder to keep the amount of time spent retrieving an item at a minimum. When caught doing so, she would be reprimanded by a Learning Ambassador or people from the safety department for “overreaching.”

Amazon’s fulfillment centers have utilized pods, (i.e., movable stacks of shelves with “bins” of various sizes brought to and from workstations by automated robots) to store items that are “picked” for shipping when orders come in. These pods are eight feet (96 inches) in height.

In her lawsuit she alleges that Amazon has implemented employment policies and procedures at its fulfillment centers that, in operation, discriminate against female employees by inflicting significant adverse impacts upon them when compared to Amazon’s male employees assigned to the same tasks and positions.

Her attorneys allege that on average, in the United States, including California, adult men are significantly taller than adult women, and Amazon unnecessarily places female employees at its fulfillment centers at a significant disadvantage compared to male employees, in effect, punishing them for their generally shorter stature. And the safety policies and Amazon’s Quality and Productivity Performance Policies “are seemingly tailored to the height and strength of the male physique, rather than the female physique.”

Amazon sets targets for productivity each day and ranks warehouse employees by their “Productivity Score” on a weekly basis, which takes into consideration, among other things, the number of units (i.e., warehoused items to be stowed away in pods, counted for inventory, or picked for shipping to customers) scanned per hour.

Employees who need to use the stepladders or to wait for the assistance of Process Assistants more often allegedly will take more time to complete a task, on average, than those who do not, lowering the “Units Per Hour” or “UPH” and increasing their “Time Off Task” or “TOT”. This allegedly “confers an advantage to taller people over shorter people in achieving higher Productivity Scores.”

She goes on to allege that essentially “these policies and procedures operate to unfairly punish the bottom 5% of Amazon’s warehouse employees ranked by Productivity Scores, eventually culling them from the employment roster. Those subject to this cruel policy of decimation are disproportionately women due to their overall smaller stature compared to men in the general population. This includes Plaintiff, who stands five feet tall and was disciplined and eventually terminated for her low Productivity Scores.”

Ms. Fujishige claims she raised these issues to her managers whenever she was disciplined and written up for being the bottom 5% of Productivity Scores.

“Defendants have discriminated against Plaintiff and the putative class of similarly situated female employees in violation of FEHA because Amazon’s policies subjected them to different and adverse employment actions as a result of their sex, and they have suffered disparate impacts as a result of Amazon’s Quality and Productivity Performance Policy, including but not limited to its policies or practices regarding UPH, TOT, and Productivity Scores, in conjunction with the design of its pods and safety policies and procedures at its fulfillment centers.”