Have you experienced a hostile work environment at Amazon?

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Is Amazon a Hostile Work Environment?

What do we mean when we say that a work environment is “hostile”?

Legally, for a workplace to be considered “hostile” there must be more than just an impatient boss, nasty co-workers, or an uncomfortable office.

A hostile workplace is one in which supervisors or co-workers have created a discriminatory environment that any reasonable person would find so abusive or unpleasant that it affects their ability to work.

Forms of Discrimination

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it’s illegal to discriminate against someone in the workplace based on their:

  • Age (starting at age 40)
  • Disability
  • National origin or ancestry
  • Pregnancy
  • Race/Color
  • Religion/creed
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender Identity
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Veteran status


A “protected class” is a group of people with a common characteristic (age, race, religion, etc.) who are legally protected from employment discrimination on the basis of that characteristic.

It’s also illegal to use a person’s genetic information to make employment decisions. (This includes a person’s family medical history.)

Additionally, it’s illegal for job applicants or employees to be punished or retaliated against for asserting their legal rights to be free from discrimination.

What’s “hostile”?

“Hostile” doesn’t just mean rude or mean. The hostility needs to be targeted against members of a protected class to be illegal. 

Examples of such targeted harassment include:

  • Unwanted touching, including groping and physical assault
  • Name-calling
  • Using ethnic ox sexual slurs
  • Discussing sex or using sexually suggestive language
  • Commenting on someone’s personal appearance or body
  • Making racist or sexist “jokes” or insults
  • Displaying sexually suggestive pictures or objects, such as “pin-ups”
  • Sabotaging someone’s career due to bigotry against members of their protected class

Who’s doing the harassing?

Harassment isn’t only illegal when a person’s boss is the one doing the harassing. The harasser can also be a co-worker, client, contractor, or other non-employee. The company can become responsible when it knows about the situation and doesn’t take appropriate action, such as firing or disciplining the harasser.

A person can be the victim of harassment even if they’re not being directly harassed, as long as they’re affected by the conduct.

What’s a hostile work environment?

A hostile work environment is one in which certain employees are harassed based on one or more of the protected class characteristics listed above (race, sex, etc.)

According to the EEOC, harassment becomes unlawful when:

  • enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or
  • the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

Hostile Environments at Amazon

Amazon workplaces have been described as “toxic.” According to Yahoo! Finance,

In a new investigative report, reporters from the Daily Beast found that over a period of five years, 189 emergency calls were made from 46 Amazon warehouse sites for employee mental health episodes — many of which were suicide-related.

The New York Times called Amazon’s workplace “brutal.” The article describes employees who felt that their careers were negatively affected because of motherhood, illness, and age.

According to a complaint filed with the EEOC by Muslim Advocates on behalf of three Somali women Amazon employees,

Although Amazon was aware of the religious accommodations required by its Muslim employees, it fostered a hostile environment where individuals feared taking time for obligatory prayer and were informed that they should quit if they wanted to observe Eid al-Fitr with their families. By not permitting its Muslim employees to observe fundamental tenets of their faith, and instead cultivating a culture of fear and retribution, Amazon fell far short of its obligations under Title VII.

According to a New York Times article on the case,

In the letter summarizing their claims, the women said they had faced retaliation since they were involved in the December protest. The workers said they had received difficult work assignments and improper warnings that could lead to firing. 

 

Alleged Sexism and Homophobia at AWS

The Guardian recently reported how Cindy Warner, a tech executive with 30 years of experience, sued Amazon Web Services (AWS) a little more than a year after joining the company, saying she had faced pay discrimination, sexism, and homophobia.

The Guardian noted that hers is one of a number of lawsuits involving allegations of workplace discrimination at Amazon.

Lawsuit by Transgender Couple

As TechCrunch reported, a few years ago Amazon faced a lawsuit from two former employees who alleged that the company harassed them and threatened them physically.

After one member of the couple came out as transgender, she said that she began to experience “discrimination and harassment by Amazon employees, supervisors, and managers.” This harassment allegedly included referring to her with male pronouns and titles, as well as with slurs like “chick with a dick,” “shemale,” and “tranny.”

Her partner said that employees offered him porn and sex toys.

While driving home from work one day, after parking in the secure Amazon lot, the couple found that their brakes weren’t working properly and later learned that the brake line had been intentionally severed.

Systematic Pattern of Racial and Gender Discrimination?

Yet another lawsuit against Amazon alleges systematic discrimination against Black and female employees.

As TFL reports, a complaint was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. by Charlotte Newman, a Black woman who is a graduate of Harvard Business School. Newman claimed that the company failed to hire and promote to the same level as her male colleagues, and paid her less than them, thereby “engaging in racial and sexual harassment and/or creating, fostering, condoning, accepting, ratifying, and/or otherwise failing to prevent or to remedy a hostile work environment.”

Newman asserted that “like so many other Black and female employees at Amazon, [she] was confronted with a systemic pattern of insurmountable discrimination based upon the color of her skin and her gender.” 

What can you do if you’re facing a hostile work environment at Amazon?

If you’re dealing with a hostile work environment at Amazon, call attorney CJ Rosenbaum at 212-256-1109, text 212-256-8492, or email You can also submit a summary of your situation online.

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Rosenbaum, Famularo & Segall, P.C.

Telephone: 212-256-1109

Email: CJ@AmazonSellersLawyer.com

Address: 138 East Park Ave. Long Beach, NY 11561

Copyright 2021 – Rosenbaum, Famularo & Segall, P.C., the law firm behind Amazon Sellers Lawyer – All Rights Reserved – New York – Shenzhen – Yiwu

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