Amazon Halts Workforce Testing For Marijuana

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America’s second largest employer confirms it will no longer test staff for marijuana use, and begins testing for Covid variants in the UK

Amazon has announced a couple of changes as it seeks to “become Earth’s best employer and Earth’s safest place to work.”

The e-commerce giant announced that it will no longer test staff for the use of marijuana before they are hired (except delivery drivers will still be tested). Amazon also said it would adjust its ‘Time Off Task’ policy for staff taking a break.

Last week Amazon endured some flak on social media when it revealed plans to install “wellness” booths displaying videos about relaxation into its warehouses as part of its response to criticism over staff working conditions.

Amazon wellness booth

Marijuana usage

Amazon of course in the second largest employer in the United States (behind Walmart) and it announced the changes for US staff in a blog post by worldwide consumer CEO Dave Clark.

The first change Amazon is relaxing its ‘Time off Task’ policy, which the firm uses to measure the amount of time staff are logged on to the software tools in their work area. Essentially it automatically tracks workers’ productivity by analysing the time they spend on breaks.

Staff will now be allowed more time when they are not engaged in their core job.

The second change, which is grabbing all the headlines, is Amazon adjust its stance on marijuana use.

Amazon said it will regard its use similar to alcohol and will support federal legislation changes for the drug.

“In addition to changing our Time off Task policy, we’re adjusting our drug testing policy,” blogged Clark. “In the past, like many employers, we’ve disqualified people from working at Amazon if they tested positive for marijuana use. However, given where state laws are moving across the US, we’ve changed course.”

“We will no longer include marijuana in our comprehensive drug screening program for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation, and will instead treat it the same as alcohol use,” Clark wrote. “We will continue to do impairment checks on the job and will test for all drugs and alcohol after any incident.”

Delivery drivers, crane operators etc will still obviously be tested.

“And because we know that this issue is bigger than Amazon, our public policy team will be actively supporting The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 – federal legislation that would legalise marijuana at the federal level, expunge criminal records, and invest in impacted communities,” Clark added.

Amazon recently survived a serious attempt to introduce a trade union into one of its fulfilment centres in the US.

Coronavirus testing

Meanwhile on this side of the pond, Amazon is starting to test its UK staff for Coronavirus variants.

Reuters reported that Amazon will then feed the data to public health officials, including in hotspots where a strain first found in India is spreading fast.

Amazon it should be remembered built its own Coronavirus testing labs to monitor the health of its staff back in April 2020, when the pandemic began raging around the world.

It also introduced many protection measures for staff during the pandemic, but that did not prevent nearly 20,000 staff being infected by Covid-19 as Q3 last year.

Indeed, the firm has been criticised for failing to protect staff during the pandemic, and in February Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, filed a lawsuit against Amazon, alleging ‘disregard for health and safety requirements’ and retaliation against employees who raised alarms.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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