Amazon Sued for Employment Discrimination

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Nov 20, 2016

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AmazonAbdullah Haydar, a former Amazon.com tech manager, is suing the company for discrimination. Haydar alleges that the company discriminated against him based upon his Muslim religion and Syrian descent.

Haydar joined Amazon in November 2012 as a senior manager of selection tech in Seattle. He claims he was passed over for promotions in favor of people who were less qualified, that his supervisors discriminated against him based on his Muslim and Arab background, and that he attempted to transfer to another team to escape the discrimination he faced, but was unable to do so because of negative performance reviews. Haydar claims that he was terminated without cause.

Haydar alleges that he brought his claims of discrimination to Amazon’s human resources department, but that department repeatedly sided with the company. Haydar alleges that his treatment exemplifies the abusive culture that was documented in a recent New York Times article. 

The New York Times Article

Haydar’s claims came 14 months after the New York Times reported on the cutthroat culture at Amazon, where employees who did not perform were pushed out. According to the New York Times, workers are encouraged to tear apart each other’s ideas, work long and late hours, and are held to “unreasonably high standards.” One human resources director described the annual firings as “purposeful Darwinism.” One worker who lasted less than two years in a book marketing position said that watching his coworkers cry was a normal occurrence. “You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face… Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.” 

This report was later challenged by Amazon executive Jay Carney, who stated that the worker who provided that quote had resigned from the company after an internal investigation “revealed he had attempted to defraud vendors and conceal it by falsifying business records.” 

The Complaint

Haydar’s complaint alleges, “Mr. Haydar’s work created billions in revenue for Amazon, and he was widely praised for his performance by peers, direct reports, and colleagues from across Amazon worldwide. Despite this performance, Mr. Haydar, a Muslim U.S. Citizen of Syrian descent, was repeatedly subjected to demeaning comments directed at his national origin, religion, and marital status, given false and derogatory performance reviews, passed over for promotion in favor of less successful Caucasian peers, and denied transfers and other career opportunities.”

Haydar is seeking a jury trial, compensation from the emotional and physical toll of the abuse that he suffered from his supervisors, and lost wages and benefits. Haydar also seeks a court order for Amazon to “take effective steps to prevent ongoing discrimination and harassment of employees; fully investigate and appropriately respond to all conduct that may constitute discrimination and harassment; and mitigate the effects of discrimination and harassment by eliminating any hostile environment that may impact any employees who make claim as victims.”

Response to Lawsuit

Amazon has not commented on the case, citing its policy of not discussing active litigation. However, Amazon did point out that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has investigated Haydar’s concerns and found that there had been no violation of the law. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights has accepted the EEOC’s decision and has also dismissed his complaint. 

Vicki Levengood, communications director for Michigan Department of Civil Rights, confirmed that the EEOC had processed Haydar’s complaint earlier this year.

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