Despite recently enacting laws to allow its employees to more easily verify what can and cannot be said on public forums (while identified as an employee), Amazon is under fire for threatening climate activists who failed to abide by the policy. The employees were engaged in a struggle to urge Amazon to reassess its environmental impacts and take action to reduce the company’s carbon footprint immediately.
But Amazon threatened to fire those who spoke out.
At least two employees were warned that they could be terminated for violating company policies by speaking to journalists or posting on social media. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice said that at least four employees were counseled to refrain from making certain kinds of comments in public.
One of the employees, Maren Costa, recently spoke with the Washington Post. A spokesperson for Amazon Employees for Climate Justice said, “This is not the time to shoot the messengers. This is not the time to silence those who are speaking out.”
It’s worth noting, however, that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post.
Amazon ensured those concerned about the purported threats that Amazon employees have always been asked to comply with company guidelines, and that the guidelines in question weren’t new. Amazon spokesperson Jaci Anderson said that employees were free to ask for or provide insight into “improvement to how we operate through those internal channels.”
Amazon HR representative Eric Sjoding said in an email to Costa, “I encourage you to review the policy again and in the future anytime you may consider speaking about Amazon’s business in a public forum.”
Amazon employees are barred from making disparaging remarks about the company in public while identified as an Amazon employee — but nothing bars them from doing so anonymously. Many companies and corporations have similar guidelines to prevent employees from placing the company in a bad light.
After a September walkout, though, Amazon amended this policy to allow employees to request approval for comments they sought to make in public forums. This policy was implemented in 2019.
The walkout was organized in response to Amazon’s alleged sidestepping of environmentally dangerous policies. A resolution was put forth to change policies, but it was swiftly rejected by shareholders.
Still, Amazon apparently responded to the suggestions. The company announced a long-term plan to go entirely carbon neutral in 20 years, and use only renewable energy to operate within 10. The announcement was made only a day before workers walked out (alongside many other climate activists around the world).