Employee Sues Amazon for Race and Gender-Based Discrimination

Charlotte Newman filed a lawsuit against Amazon.com, Inc., Amazon Web Services, Inc. (collectively, Amazon), and three individual employees for discrimination in the corporate workplace. The 63-page civil complaint detailed Newman’s experience at Amazon as well as published reports and statistics that support her contention that Amazon illegally discriminates against minorities, and Black women like the plaintiff in particular.

Newman recounted being hired by Amazon for a job of lower rank than what she applied and was qualified for. She was reportedly asked to do work above her pay grade while continuing to receive a salary and benefits package, including lucrative stock options, at a level commensurate with the lesser role. Newman alleged that she complained to Amazon about the perceived discrepancy affecting her and other Black employees, yet management rebuffed her concerns.

In addition, the plaintiff alleged that “a senior male co-worker also felt free to sexually harass Ms. Newman and at times in plain view of others.” The filing explained that Amazon’s response to her sexual harassment complaint was unsatisfactory. Although the co-worker was eventually fired, Newman was not apprised of developments in the investigation, and was required to participate in video calls with the alleged harasser even after she lodged the formal complaint.

The filing also faults Amazon leadership for hypocrisy. For example, after claiming to support the Black Lives Matter movement, the plaintiff contended, general counsel David Zapolsky openly mocked and directed a “character assassination” of a Black Amazon warehouse employee, Christian Smalls. Smalls later sued the e-commerce giant after the company fired him for protesting unsafe working conditions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The complaint further asserted that Amazon’s discriminatory practices were pervasive, reasoning that “when a company’s top leaders traffic in stereotypes of Black employees and fail to condemn intimidation tactics, managers farther down the chain will take note of that modus operandi and behave accordingly.” The plaintiff also claimed that despite Amazon’s contention that approximately 26.5% of its employees identify as Black or African-American, the vast majority of those employees work in its warehouses, not in top management, which is reportedly bereft of Black representation.

After exhausting her administrative remedies, Newman filed this lawsuit. She seeks to redress the allegedly unlawful employment practices committed against her, including Amazon’s discriminatory treatment towards and harassment of her due to her race, color, and gender in violation of the federal Civil Rights and Equal Pay Acts, and the Washington, D.C. Human Rights Act.

The plaintiff is represented by Wigdor LLP.