Updated May 8, 2022
At Amazon, we work hard to foster a work environment in which all employees are empowered to do their best work, free of discrimination, harassment, or other unlawful conduct. We take any allegation of unlawful conduct, including discrimination and harassment, very seriously.
We also support every employee’s right to speak freely about their work environment regardless of whether they have positive or critical perspectives or experiences. To embed this in our company culture, the agreements that our employees sign when they are hired, our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, and any other applicable policies permit employees to discuss or report publicly any concerns over allegedly unlawful conduct in their work environment, including discrimination and harassment. We do not require employees to sign arbitration agreements. Amazon’s external communications policy outlines that “employees (including hourly fulfillment center employees) may freely communicate about their personal work experiences at Amazon without PR approval, including posting on social media such as Glassdoor, Twitter, and Instagram, and are encouraged to do so. This includes communications about (a) Amazon’s wages, hours, or working conditions, (b) whistleblowing, or (c) other activities protected by applicable law.”
There are limited circumstances when we enter into agreements with employees containing confidentiality clauses, including non-disclosure or non-disparagement clauses, that could restrict an employee’s ability to publicly discuss allegations of unlawful acts in the workplace. These clauses are used when entering into a mutually agreed separation and severance agreement with an employee or when resolving claims made by an employee or former employee through a settlement agreement, in compliance with local laws.
Because these agreements are typically intended to resolve all claims or allegations that have been or could be made by the employee or former employee, it is common practice to ask that the individual no longer publicly repeat claims or allegations or make new ones once they agree to the resolution. The confidentiality clauses do not prohibit individuals from reporting concerns about allegedly unlawful conduct to appropriate law enforcement bodies or government regulators. These agreements are often (but not always) individually negotiated, are mutually agreed, and involve payment to the employee or former employee, and the individual has the right to be advised by a lawyer or seek other advice on whether to enter into the agreement.
We work hard to help ensure that employees know that we take any allegation of unlawful conduct in our workplace extremely seriously. We provide employees with easy access to mechanisms for reporting and addressing concerns and offer training to employees on topics covered within our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics. This includes details on how to submit anonymous complaints to Amazon’s third-party ethics hotline.
We carefully review and investigate allegations of conduct that is unlawful or violates our policies, regardless of the position of the individual(s) involved and regardless of whether we enter into a settlement agreement with the person making the claims. We do not allow retaliation against an employee for reporting misconduct by others in good faith. To maintain proper oversight of these matters, our senior leadership team receives regular updates on allegations of unlawful discrimination and harassment and is kept apprised of the progress and findings of the resulting investigation. In addition, if there are any allegations of unlawful discrimination and harassment against employees in vice-president-level positions or above, the Leadership Development and Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors, comprised of independent directors, receives detailed quarterly updates on such allegations, as well as on any employees investigated on behalf of Amazon by an external investigator. If, upon completion of an investigation, an employee is found to have engaged in unlawful conduct or to have violated our policies, we take appropriate action to discipline the employee, which can include termination of employment, regardless of that employee’s position or tenure at Amazon.
We recognize that our employees are critical to our success, and we strive to be Earth’s Best Employer. Following a request by some shareholders to assess the potential risks to Amazon of our use of these types of confidentiality clauses, we’ve considered whether our limited use of these clauses may be perceived as reducing accountability, whether investors or others could lack confidence about their ability to understand Amazon’s workplace culture, and whether stakeholders, including employees and customers, may not understand how such provisions operate or that our use of them is limited, and that any such misperception could affect our ability to attract and retain talented employees or otherwise harm our reputation as an employer.
We don’t believe this to be the case. We work to mitigate these potential risks through our policies and practices, including those discussed above, and by being candid and transparent about not using these kinds of clauses other than in the limited context we’ve described. We investigate allegations of unlawful conduct, provide for senior management and independent Board oversight of such investigations, and do not restrict employees from reporting concerns about allegedly unlawful conduct to the appropriate law enforcement body or government regulator. Finally, our external communications policy and other similar policies allow and encourage employees to use social media to inform others about their workplace experience at Amazon, as reflected in widespread media coverage presenting many viewpoints on our workplace culture.