Media stories about grueling working conditions at Amazon distribution centers and warehouses in Tennessee and around the country have been a problem for the world’s largest online retailer for many years. Allegations contained in a recently filed federal complaint say that the company has also discriminated against workers based on their race, religion or national origin.
The complaint was submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission on behalf of three Somali women by the nonprofit organization Muslim Advocates on May 8. It accuses Amazon of denying promotions and attractive assignments to black Muslim workers from East Africa and Somalia while making these opportunities available to white employees. The unnamed women also say that they feared reprimand or even termination if they left their posts for a few minutes to pray. When Muslim workers protested about the alleged workplace discrimination on Dec. 14, Amazon allegedly retaliated by handing out written warnings and assigning the protesting workers particularly onerous tasks.
An Amazon representative responding to the complaint did not specifically address those allegations, but they did say that Amazon allows its workers to take up to 20 minutes to pray while remaining on the clock. The spokesperson said that longer unpaid prayer breaks could be requested. The company also claims that it takes the needs of Muslim workers seriously and took steps to ensure that they would be accommodated during Ramadan.
Allegations like these can do great harm to a company’s reputation. When employers have valuable reputations to protect, attorneys with experience in this area may encourage them to settle workplace discrimination and harassment complaints discretely at the negotiating table.
Source: Gizmodo, Three Muslim Amazon Workers Allege They Were Unfairly Punished for Raising Workplace Discrimination Concerns, Catie Keck, May 8, 2019