A lawsuit filed in US federal court accuses American eCommerce giant Amazon of keeping women and employees of color down while publicly supporting the need for diversity and social justice.
Charlotte Newman, a person of color herself and head of Underrepresented Founder Startup Business Development at Amazon Web Services (AWS), said in the suit she has been harassed, sexually assaulted and kept from advancing to positions she deserved in the corporation.
“Like so many other Black and female employees at Amazon, Charlotte Newman was confronted with a systemic pattern of insurmountable discrimination based upon the color of her skin and her gender,” attorneys argued in the lawsuit.
Ms. Newman said she was hired as a public policy manager at Amazon four years ago, doing work typically assigned to higher level employees and paid less than white co-workers.
In June last year, she filed a written complaint about harassment by a male executive and “discriminatory attitudes” expressed by managers at Amazon. The filing said that she also made a complaint at the Office of Human Rights in Washington later that year.
Practices at Amazon include putting Black employees into lower paying jobs at levels beneath their qualifications and skills, and then making them wait longer for promotions, the suit accused. A number of Black women at Amazon, and particularly its cloud services division, have spoken of having their hair touched without consent or being criticized for not being friendly enough, according to the suit.
Ms. Newman is asking for her case to be heard by a jury and to be awarded unspecified cash damages.
“Amazon works hard to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture, and these allegations do not reflect those efforts or our values. We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind and thoroughly investigate all claims and take appropriate action,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in response to the lawsuit. Amazon is digging into allegations made in the lawsuit, the spokeswoman added.
Amazon has worked to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement. In September last year, its cloud computing chief Andy Jassy, who will succeed Mr. Bezos as Amazon CEO, gave the keynote address at a Black Employee Network entrepreneurship conference.
Meanwhile, the company also faces lawsuits claiming it mistreated workers in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic at its facilities.