Amazon employees have faced a double harassment, according to a lawsuit, after an employee in England’s south region accused the tech giant of allegedly threatening to terminate her. Two other employees accused Amazon of the harassment.
On Wednesday, the European Employment Appeals Tribunal in London issued the first judgment on the allegations. The tribunal determined Amazon unlawfully fired the employee when she declined a pay cut and refused to take a transfer.
Alexandra Bailey, the employee, filed the suit against Amazon and its local subsidiary in November 2010. Bailey, who worked as a fulfillment center worker in Surrey, was fired for “inappropriate conduct” after joining a union. When Bailey asked how much it would cost to escalate her grievance, her supervisor said, “give it five minutes, you’ll forget it,” according to the tribunal’s judgment.
When Bailey refused to accept a pay cut of $127 a week, and when she requested time off to take a train, her supervisor threatened her with a termination, saying, “I can’t allow this to go any further,” according to the tribunal’s judgment. Bailey said the supervisor also tried to force her to work the weekends, and promised to keep her job in exchange for sex.
When Bailey talked to other workers about her boss’s behavior, she was met with outright discrimination, according to the judgment. “I was called a ‘dusky one’ and told I was lucky I had a ‘caring’ boss,” Bailey wrote in her complaint.
The tribunal found Bailey’s treatment “discriminatory,” adding, “the treatment taken by Ms. Bailey was so extreme and unusual as to cause her severe humiliation.”
In addition to Bailey, two Amazon employees – Helen Scott and Lisa Rogers – who worked at the same Surrey warehouse separately, also filed harassment complaints against the company with the tribunal. Both women felt harassed by their supervisor. Scott said she also was placed on a “new only” list, meaning she was not chosen to work through the weekend.
In its judgement, the tribunal found Bailey’s supervisor’s behavior was “particularly” unusual and that “no local working practice, common sense or employee safety was put into play,” according to the court documents.
Amazon was ordered to pay both Bailey and the other women an undisclosed sum of money, the court found.
“Amazon cooperated with the tribunal and accepts its verdict,” company spokeswoman Lauren Mayhew said in a statement emailed to The Washington Post.
“The court found that our majority-female team was subjected to two inappropriate hours of filming, separate from the harassment complained of, but was nonetheless offended, distressed and stigmatized by these scenes,” she said. “As a result, all employees were verbally and physically threatened by one of their supervisors.”
The company intends to appeal the court’s ruling, Mayhew said.
While Bailey’s experience illustrates that Amazon employees face harassment, it is not the first case to raise alarms about the tech giant’s treatment of workers.
In 2013, an internal survey of Amazon workers found that nearly one-third of the field-level warehouse workers named “being treated less than fairly” as the reason why they had quit Amazon. The respondents, however, did not see pay as the main reason for quitting.
A pair of activist investors filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon in California in October, accusing the company of retaliating against employees who joined unions. The lawsuit argues that top executives at Amazon told store managers that they should retaliate against workers who want to join the United Food and Commercial Workers union, according to the complaint.