Amazon changes employee policies for time off, marijuana

Amazon announces it supports the federal legalization of marijuana, and it will revise a controversial workplace policy. Pictured, an Amazon contractor in California, on Oct. 13 2020.

Amazon announced Tuesday it supports the federal legalization of marijuana, and that the company is revising a controversial workplace policy critics say has been used to keep employees working at a breakneck pace.

The twin announcements, Amazon said, are aimed at reiterating the company's commitment to being an attractive employer.

In a blog post, Dave Clark, CEO of Amazon's worldwide consumer division, said changing state laws on marijuana mean Amazon will no longer include the substance in the company's pre-employment drug tests and that the drug will now be treated the same as alcohol.

Positions subject to regulation by the US Department of Transportation will still include the marijuana test, Clark said, adding that the company will "continue to do impairment checks on the job and will test for all drugs and alcohol after any incident."

Clark went on to say that Amazon is endorsing a federal marijuana legalization bill, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act. "We hope other employers will join us, and that policymakers will act swiftly to pass this law."

Time off policy change

Amazon is also taking a closer look at its so-called Time off Task policy, which automatically tracks workers' productivity by analyzing the time they spend on breaks. Critics have said that Time off Task contributes to a stressful work environment that treats workers as cogs in a machine rather than as people.

On Tuesday, Clark appeared to acknowledge that criticism even as he claimed the policy is easily "misunderstood."

"The primary goal of the Time off Task metric is to understand whether there are issues with the tools that people use to be productive, and only secondarily to identify under-performing employees," he wrote. "Starting today, we're now averaging Time off Task over a longer period to ensure that there's more signal and less noise—reinforcing the original intent of the program, and focusing Time off Task conversations on how we can help. The goal is to re-focus the conversations on instances where there are likely true operational issues to resolve. We believe this change will help ensure the Time off Task policy is used in the way it was intended."

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