<span class="bsf-rt-reading-time"><span class="bsf-rt-display-label" prefix="Reading Time"></span> <span class="bsf-rt-display-time" reading_time="3"></span> <span class="bsf-rt-display-postfix" postfix="mins"></span></span><!-- .bsf-rt-reading-time -->Charlotte Newman, Black senior manager, sues Amazon for harassment, discrimination

Charlotte Newman, Black senior manager, sues Amazon for harassment, discrimination

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Laura Hautala
2021-03-01 16:49:30


A senior manager is suing Amazon and some of its executives, alleging pay discrimination, racial and gender discrimination, as well as sexual assault by one executive.

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A Black senior manager at Amazon filed a lawsuit Monday against the company and some of its employees for alleged race and gender discrimination, harassment and pay equity violations. She also said it was part of a broader pattern of discrimination against Black employees at the tech giant. The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Washington, DC, also details an alleged sexual assault by one former Amazon senior employee.

Charlotte Newman, who works at Amazon Web Services, alleges that she was assigned work consistent with employees in roles above the one she was hired and paid for. She also alleges that her manager told her she was “too direct” and “scary,” and that a senior employee pulled her hair and groped her.

The senior employee “felt free to sexually harass Ms. Newman and at times in plain view of others,” the lawsuit alleges.

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said the company is looking into the complaint. “Amazon works hard to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture, and these allegations do not reflect those efforts or our values,” the spokesperson said. “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.”

The spokesperson didn’t respond to a follow up question about which of the claims Amazon had already investigated, and whether the statement was meant to indicate that it wouldn’t re-investigate those claims. Newman alleged in her lawsuit that the company previously investigated her direct manager as well as the senior employee she says harassed and assaulted her after she filed an internal complaint.

The lawsuit details Newman’s own experience of getting hired as a “level 7” employee when she applied for — and felt she was qualified for — a “level 8” role of senior manager. She alleges that she was doing “level 8” tasks within months of her hiring, but fought for more than two and a half years to receive a promotion. Newman alleges that this practice, which she calls “de-leveling,” is applied to Black and Latino employees throughout Amazon, preventing them from receiving appropriate pay for their work and making their path to advancement take much longer than it does for their white counterparts.

Newman also detailed how she spoke up with concerns about the risks of selling Amazon’s Rekognition facial recognition software to law enforcement, given that it had higher error rates for Black people. Her concerns were rebuffed, she said. She also noted that Black Amazon employees sent an internal letter to Amazon executives expressing dismay that the company’s General Counsel David Zapolsky had used “racially offensive” language to describe a Black warehouse worker who was trying to unionize an Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island.

Newman, who has an MBA from Harvard University and was previously an economic adviser to Sen. Cory Booker, had earlier filed a complaint to the Washington, DC, Office of Human Rights, according to the lawsuit. In the lawsuit, Newman alleges that several other Black female co-workers were subjected to hurtful, stereotyping comments about their race that held them back professionally.

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