When is free speech not free speech according to Amazon

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When your employer puts out a statement with their long term aims and objectives and then you decide to disagree and go to the press as an employee saying you disagree with your employer you should expect a certain level of intolerance to come your way. That’s what’s happened with Amazon employees who have rubbished Amazon’s aim to be carbon neutral by 2040 and instead made various demands such as being carbon neutral by 2030 and ceasing to sell cloud computing services to oil and gas companies. Amazon have warned their employees that free speech that violates the Amazon Communication Policy for employees is a valid reason for dismissal.

Free speech is a recognised right, but that is as an individual. However companies employ PR teams specifically for the role of conveying their message to the press and typically companies ban employees from speaking to the media without PR training. Here at Tamebay, we do of course uphold the right of free speech regardless of who you work for, but there is a line that can’t be crossed and that is speaking as a representative of company without permission, especially when you go against the company message.

There is nothing wrong with discussing the company you work for and Amazon’s social media policy requires that employees reveal talking about Amazon add a rider that the opinions are their own and not those of the company. Here on Tamebay we have a similar policy for comments. If someone from a marketplace or supplier wishes to comment, they may do so either officially by linking their name to the company URL and using their company email address, but if they wise to comment as an individual we request them to use their personal email address.

Amazon have every right to have a coherent PR message and they also have the right to demand their workers don’t talk to the press as employees. It’s also worth nothing that Amazon are not alone in banning workers from talking to the press in their capacity as an employee – most large companies have similar policies. It might sound harsh, but if you violently disagree with the company you work for so much that you go to the press, perhaps it’s time to seek a new job?

Climate change is naturally an emotive subject and it’s all too easy to hide behind the issues as a justification for speaking out. Indeed, if anyone feels strongly about this or any other issue free speech gives them the right to speak out. What free speech doesn’t do is give you the right to speak as a company representative, only as an individual and that means not using your position as an employee to convey your message.

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