Amazon threatens to fire employees for speaking out on climate change

January 3, 2020

 

As an employer, it is important to know what you can and can’t stop your employees from saying publicly.

A group of Amazon employees have said the company has threatened to dismiss them for speaking out publicly about environmental issues. These employees have joined calls by the public for Amazon to do more to tackle climate change, such as achieve zero emissions by 2030 and limit its work with fossil fuel companies.

Amazon has defended its actions and stated that these employees were violating the company’s policy on making public comments. The policy requires employees to seek prior approval to speak out about Amazon in any public forum if they can be identified as an employee of the company.

Amazon states that this policy makes it easier for employees to participate in external activities, such as giving speeches or interviews and using the company’s logo. However, some employees have accused Amazon of introducing this policy in an attempt to silence them from speaking out against the company.

In order to reduce the risk of a public fallout with employees, employers should consider the following:

  • Have a policy in place which sets out clear guidelines on what can and can’t be said publicly about your business and what action may be taken if an employee breaches those guidelines.

  • Train your employees on this policy so that they understand what they can and can’t say in public, whether permission is needed first before a public statement is made, and what may happen if their behaviour doesn’t comply with your policy.

  • When considering the contents of your policy, make sure you get the balance right between protecting your business and giving your employees a voice to openly question your policies and practices. In particular, if the employee has made a public statement outside of office hours, disciplinary action will usually only be justified if the comments cause damage to your business (e.g. bring the business into disrepute) or amount to a breach of confidentiality.

 

 

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