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EEOC complaint accuses Amazon of religious discrimination

Worker advocacy groups in New York and around the country have often accused Amazon of treating its warehouse and distribution workers harshly and forcing them to meet strict productivity requirements, but the Seattle-based retailer has rarely faced allegations of racial, sexual or religious discrimination. That changed on May 8 when a complaint was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that claims Amazon treats black Muslim workers from Somalia and East Africa unfairly.

The complaint was filed by the nonprofit civil rights organization Muslim Advocates on behalf of three unnamed women who work at an Amazon distribution center in Minnesota. The women claim that black Muslim employees are assigned more onerous duties and are regularly passed over for promotions in favor of their white colleagues. The women also say in their complaint that Amazon frowns upon Muslim workers practicing their faith while on the job. When the workers protested about these practices on Dec. 14, they say Amazon retaliated by issuing them with written warnings and assigning them even more unpleasant tasks.

Amazon did not address these allegations directly in a press statement about the complaint, but a representative did say that workers at all of the company's facilities are permitted to take up to 20 minutes to pray while on the clock. They are also permitted to take longer unpaid breaks for prayer. The Amazon spokesperson dismissed the implication of Islamophobia and pointed out that the company had made careful preparations for Ramadan.

Allegations such as these have been known to do great harm to companies that deal directly with the public. Attorneys with experience in this area may be aware of this, so they might encourage employers to settle employment discrimination claims discretely during negotiations to avoid a public court battle that could damage their reputations and undermine public trust.

Source: Gizmodo, Three Muslim Amazon Workers Allege They Were Unfairly Punished for Raising Workplace Discrimination Concerns, Catie Keck, May 8, 2019

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