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Amazon slapped with federal lawsuit for alleged discrimination and sexual harassment

The e-commerce giant is getting called out for “de-leveling.”

Amazon slapped with federal lawsuit for alleged discrimination and sexual harassment
[Photo: Lisa Werner/Getty Images]
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Amazon is facing allegations of discrimination by one of its senior managers.

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Charlotte Newman, a business development executive at Amazon Web Services who focuses on underrepresented founders, filed a federal lawsuit against the e-commerce giant and three current and former executives on Monday in Washington.

Newman, a Black woman, is a four-year veteran of the company, where she’s held several positions. She originally applied for a higher-level job for which she was qualified but was offered a lower-level position. This practice, known as “de-leveling,” was explained in the suit:

“Within months of starting at the company, she, in fact, was assigned and doing the work of a senior manager-level employee while still being paid at and having the title of the manager level. To make matters worse, and in defiance of the anti-discrimination laws, Ms. Newman was paid significantly less than her white coworkers, particularly in valuable Amazon stock.”

After being denied a promotion for over a year, the suit says, Newman was finally advanced, but she says she was sexually harassed by a former AWS director, and her performance reviews were based on his negative feedback to Newman’s manager at the time, according to a report in Recode.

Amazon has faced several lawsuits over the last year, including those alleging racial and sexual discrimination. In one suit, a hiring manager said she was told to “stalk” applicants’ social media to look for race and gender information. In another, a transgender man alleged he was harassed and faced retaliation.

An extensive report in Recode last week alleged “systemic issues” at Amazon that put underrepresented employees, particularly Black employees, at a disadvantage in terms of promotions and pay.

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When asked for comment, an Amazon spokesperson said:

“Amazon works hard to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture, and these allegations do not reflect those efforts or our values. 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.”

About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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