Amazon is facing a wave of five new lawsuits filed Wednesday by employees across its workforce who say they faced illegal discrimination and retaliation on the job, primarily from white male managers.
The lawsuits were filed by current and former Amazon corporate and warehouse employees in Arizona, California, Pennsylvania, and Washington state. They accuse Amazon managers and HR employees of racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination, as well as sexual harassment, and allege systemic biases in hirings, promotions, and firings at Amazon based on race and gender.
Four of the employees claim they were retaliated against after raising complaints, three of which were fired, and attorneys for the employees said Amazon’s top executives and HR department “routinely protected and abetted” abusive managers
“Women and employees of color at all levels of Amazon have had their complaints of harassment and discrimination brushed under the rug and met with retaliation for years,” Lawrence Pearson and Jeanne Christensen, attorneys at the law firm Wigdor who are representing the five employees, said in a statement.
“Amazon can no longer dismiss abusive behavior and retaliation by white managers as mere anecdotes. These are systemic problems, entrenched deep within the company and perpetuated by a human resources organization that treats employees who raise concerns as the problem,” the attorneys added.
In a statement to Insider, an Amazon spokesperson said: “We are conducting thorough investigations for each of these unrelated cases, as we do with any reported incidents, and we have found no evidence to support the allegations.”
“Amazon works hard to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture. We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment in any form, and employees are encouraged to raise concerns to any member of management or through an anonymous ethics hotline with no risk of retaliation,” the spokesperson added.
The lawsuits come ahead of Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting, where investors are set to vote on a proposal introduced by the New York Common Retirement Fund that would require Amazon to undergo an independent racial equity audit. Amazon unsuccessfully tried to get the proposal tossed out.
The National Labor Relations Board has accused Amazon of illegally firing multiple workers who protested the company’s working conditions, and Recode recently reported that internal Amazon data shows Black employees are hired and promoted at disproportionate rates than their white counterparts.
Chris Smalls, an Amazon employee fired in March 2020 after protesting working conditions, also filed a lawsuit in November accusing the company of violating civil rights laws by failing to protect Black, Brown, and immigrant warehouse workers from COVID-19 while looking out for its mostly white managers.
The latest wave of lawsuits were filed by:
- Tiffany Gordwin, a Black female senior HR specialist in Avondale, Arizona, who accused Amazon of tricking her into applying for a lower role than what she qualified and interviewed for, and who works for a white manager who is working on his master’s degree even though she completed her MBA degree seven years ago;
- Diana Cuervo, a Latinx female warehouse manager in Everett, Washington, who claimed her Amazon supervisor made comments such as “Latins suck,” and said she was fired weeks after complaining about the harassment she faced as well as a gas leak in the facility;
- Cindy Warner, a gay female Amazon Web Services executive in Irvine, California, who accused the company of falsely saying it didn’t hire internally for a position she was qualified for, and claimed a male coworker called her a “b—” and “idiot” in front of other coworkers and then fired her after complaining and retaining an attorney;
- Emily Sousa, an Asian-American female warehouse manager in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, who claimed a male manager compared her to an adult film star, and that she was demoted after complaining about sexual and racial harassment by another male manager;
- Pearl Thomas, a Black female HR employee in Washington state, who claimed her supervisor called her the “n-word” and that when she complained about racial discrimination, her own HR representative dismissed her concerns by suggesting she was emotional because of Derek Chauvin’s trial.