Lawsuits Allege Amazon Discriminates Against Muslims and Pregnant Women
Amazon has received numerous complaints from current and former employees over the years, ranging from warehouse conditions that treat workers like “robots,” to a highly publicized pay increase that also cut out stock grants and bonuses. Given that Amazon is the nation’s second largest employer behind Walmart, employee grievances are bound to happen. But several new lawsuits against Amazon accuse the company of discrimination against pregnant women and Muslims.
Amazon has been accused of religious discrimination and retaliation by three Muslim workers at the Shakopee Minnesota warehouse. The women allege that Amazon created a hostile environment for Muslim workers by denying them time and space to pray, while also regularly assigning them less favorable work than their white counterparts.
The women also allege that they were denied promotions and training opportunities that went to other workers and were frequently relegated to more difficult tasks such as packing heavy items. Attorneys for the nonprofit firm Muslim Advocates believe that Amazon’s actions violate protections laid out in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“No worker should have to sacrifice a bathroom break to pray or be punished because they protested discrimination in their workplace,” said Sirine Shebaya, interim legal director for Muslim Advocates in a post on the firm’s website. “Our clients’ experiences reflect a culture of discrimination against workers on the basis of their race, religion, and national origin. We hope the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] will prioritize and immediately investigate these Title VII violations.”
Amazon was also recently the subject of a Cnet investigation where it was revealed that the company has faced at least seven lawsuits from pregnant former workers. According to the report, one of the major issues relates to Amazon’s strict limits on “off task” activities such as bathroom breaks.
“Amazon wants to push out as much product as possible,” said Beverly Rosales, a pregnant former Amazon employee who filed a lawsuit earlier this year. “They need as many people that don’t need accommodations to work there. They care more about the numbers than their employees.”
Beverly and other pregnant employees allege that management would frequently complain about their slowed work pace and need for bathroom breaks. Another pregnant employee visited the emergency room with the flu where a doctor told her there were difficulties detecting her baby’s heartbeat. When the employee provided management with a doctor’s note advising she take three days off work to recuperate, she alleges an Amazon human resources manager told her that Amazon “does not accept doctor’s notes.”
Amazon has denied any wrongdoing regarding discrimination against pregnant workers.
“Amazon accommodates work restrictions for pregnant employees within our fulfillment centers; typically, these accommodations vary including based on the employee’s particular needs,” said a spokeswoman for the company.
There’s no denying Amazon is a hugely successful company. It’s even garnered enough good will to consistently rank highly on lists of American’s most loved brands. But that success was built on the hard work of thousands of employees. Unless Amazon makes serious efforts to improve the treatment of its employees, more lawsuits like these are all but inevitable.
Wexler Wallace represents clients who have been harmed by unfair working conditions, workplace sexual harassment, and other employment matters. To learn more about our work, visit our Employment Litigation page.