Amazon CEO reportedly says company could improve worker treatment

Andy Jassy acknowledges the company's COVID-19 leave policies were poorly implemented last year, CNBC reports.

Laura Hautala
Laura Hautala
Laura Hautala Former Senior Writer
Laura wrote about e-commerce and Amazon, and she occasionally covered cool science topics. Previously, she broke down cybersecurity and privacy issues for CNET readers. Laura is based in Tacoma, Washington, and was into sourdough before the pandemic.
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Laura Hautala
2 min read

Andy Jassy spoke at the GeekWire Summit in Seattle.

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As Amazon frames itself as a company striving to become the "Earth's best employer," its new CEO reportedly said Tuesday there's room for improvement. Andy Jassy singled out the company's botched rollout of COVID-19 leave policies in 2020 as a failure on Amazon's part, according to a CNBC report.

The remarks came at the GeekWire Summit held both virtually and in-person in Seattle. Jassy said Amazon's workforce of 1.2 million is like a "small country" before noting that the two weeks of COVID-19 leave didn't work out for some employees, some of whom reportedly were threatened with termination even though they had requested leave. 

"During the pandemic in our fulfillment centers, we had a system and a process around people being able to request short and long term leave and the process just didn't scale," Jassy said. Adding that the company didn't plan to use its HR tools during a pandemic, Jassy said, "It didn't work the way we wanted it to work."

Amazon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Amazon currently faces heightened scrutiny of its labor practices. The National Labor Relations Board has found merit in complaints that the company retaliates against workers who organize for better working conditions. Warehouse workers voted not to unionize in April, and now an NRLB official is weighing whether Amazon acted so egregiously during the vote that the results should be thrown out and the election redone

News reports have shown Amazon workers slipped through the cracks in the early months of the pandemic, some losing their jobs due to technical glitches. One worker who was gravely ill with COVID continued to receive notifications about his return-to-work date, his wife told the New York Times.

Jassy didn't get into specifics of what went wrong with the company's leave policies or name any other areas where Amazon could improve. In general, "There are lots of things you could do better," Jassy said.