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06/02/2021

Amazon drops marijuana testing for most jobs; adjusts worker productivity metric

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
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The country’s second-largest private employer behind Walmart has joined the effort to legalize cannabis on the federal level.

Amazon said that it will no longer include marijuana in its comprehensive drug screening program. Instead, it will treat marijuana the same as alcohol. The only exception will be for positions subject to regulation by the Department of Transportation, such as truck drivers.  

The change comes as more states legalize cannabis and/or introduce laws banning employers from testing for it.  

“In the past, like many employers, we’ve disqualified people from working at Amazon if they tested positive for marijuana use,”  Dave Clark, CEO, worldwide consumer, Amazon said in a blog post to U.S. operations employees. “However, given where state laws are moving across the U.S., we’ve changed course.”

The company will continue to do impairment checks on the job and will test for all drugs and alcohol after any on-the-job incident.
 
Amazon said that it will actively support the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act). The legislation would legalize marijuana at the federal level, expunge criminal records and invest in impacted communities.

“We hope that other employers will join us, and that policymakers will act swiftly to pass this law,” Clark wrote.
 
Amazon is also tweaking its use of its controversial “Time off Task” metric, a measure of any time workers spend away from the tools at their stations. Critics and some employees have said the metric contributes to a stressful work environment, causing them to avoid taking bathroom breakers and to keep up a fast pace that can lead to on-the-job injuries.

In the post, Clark wrote that the policy can easily be “misunderstood,” and that the primary goal of the 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.”

"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,” Clark wrote. “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."

The changes in drug testing and the updated Time off Task policy come as Amazon is putting a spotlight on its workforce, amid a failed union drive and a nationwide labor crunch.