Amazon hit with pay equity, racial discrimination lawsuit

Leonard Greene, New York Daily News
·3 min read

A wage disparity exists at the highest levels of Amazon, where Black executives make less than their white co-workers doing the same job, according to a new lawsuit.

And while the retail giant has cornered the market on delivering goods to at-home shoppers, the company has also revolutionized discrimination in the form of “de-leveling,” a tactic that employs Blacks and Hispanics at a level below the jobs they applied for, the lawsuit said.

That’s what Amazon executive Charlotte Newman says happened to her. Despite being well-qualified for the senior manager role for which she interviewed, Newman said she was hired as a lower-level public policy manager and had to wait two years for a promotion to the job she had originally sought.

That wasn’t even the worst of it. Newman, a Harvard Business School graduate and a former economic policy adviser to Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), said she was racially and sexually harassed by coworkers and supervisors — including one who told her she looked “like a gorilla,” and another who stereotyped the Black woman’s communication style as “too direct” and “just scary,” saying she “can intimidate people.”

“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,” the lawsuit says.

“Many of Ms. Newman’s colleagues observed a consistent practice of paying Black employees less than similarly situated white employees, and a near-total lack of Black representation in and very few women in the upper echelons of the group’s leadership.”

Newman, who still works at Amazon, filed a federal discrimination lawsuit in Washington, D.C. against the tech giant and two of its current executives for alleged race and gender discrimination and for allegedly violating the Equality Pay Act.

According to the suit, when Newman complained to human resources about the alleged harassment and discrimination, Amazon failed to keep her updated on the status of any investigations or offer any further support.

An Amazon representative said the allegations are being investigated.

“Amazon works hard to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture, and these allegations do not reflect those efforts or our values,” the representative said in a statement. “We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind and thoroughly investigate all claims and take appropriate action. We are currently investigating the new allegations included in this lawsuit.”

People of color at Amazon take longer to get promoted and have fewer high-level positions, and not a single Black person works as part of the top leadership team, according to court papers.

The mistreatment of Black workers also contrasts with the company’s support of Black Lives Matter initiatives, the lawsuit said.

The discrimination also has financial consequences, according to the lawsuit, which noted the pay disparity also means smaller awards of company stock for Black employees, which over time can translate to hundreds of thousands of dollars or more of lost compensation every year.