UPDATE: May 27, 2021: Amazon is investigating the allegations made in the cases. "Amazon works hard to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture," a spokesperson told HR Dive. "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."
- Five lawsuits were filed on May 19 against online retail giant Amazon alleging discrimination and retaliation by primarily white male managers in Amazon's warehouses and corporate offices, according to a statement issued by Wigdor LLP, the law firm representing the plaintiffs.
- The allegations in the complaints include a Black HR specialist who was denied a promotion after White male peers accused her of speaking in "aggressive" tones; a Latinx manager who claimed that her White, male supervisor said, "Latins suck" and "You are a Latin woman, I need to be careful every time I talk to you;" a gay Amazon Web Services executive who alleged that she was called an "idiot" and other derogatory names by a male colleague in front of others and fired for complaining about discrimination; an Asian American woman who said that during her first week on the job, a male manager compared her to an adult film star; and a Black HR partner who alleged she "encountered the worst abuse and displays of racial discrimination" of her life at Amazon.
- Amazon did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Race, color, religion, sex and national origin are legally protected characteristics and they can't be factored into employment decisions, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance. However, employers generally have a strong legal defense when they can show a nondiscriminatory reason for an adverse employment action taken against someone who belongs to a legally protected group.
Several court cases have shown employers prevailing when an adverse employment action was taken based on a nondiscriminatory, legitimate reason. The U.S. Forest Service defeated an employee's bias claims because it showed that the worker's reassignment was the result of budget cuts, not gender and age bias. The bias claims of a Mississippi deputy clerk were defeated when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the clerk was fired because of a budget shortfall, not bias. Lowe's defeated a worker's allegations of age and disability bias because it was able to show legitimate business reasons for an employee's transfer to a new store.
If matters end up in court, employers should also be aware that statements by supervisors and managers can serve as evidence of discrimination. For example, a 58-year-old employee whose 52-year-old supervisor allegedly made multiple negative comments about her age was allowed to move forward with her age bias claim.