Can Unhappy Amazon Employees Sue For Damages? ACLU Says ‘Contact Us’

The American Civil Liberties Union took out a full-page ad in Friday’s Seattle Times, inviting mistreated Amazon employees to contact the ACLU to tell their story. In the ad, the ACLU hinted that it may file at least one lawsuit against Amazon.

“Amazon employees who believe they were unlawfully
penalized because of their decision to have children,
or because they were caring for a sick relative or
recovering from an illness of their own, can contact us at
GenderEqualityAmazon@aclu.org by October 1st, 2015,
to explore the possibility of legal representation.”

Amazon’s treatment of its employees has been a hot topic in the news, especially since the New York Times published a long exposé earlier this month, titled “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace.”

Employees described a culture of vicious competition. The Times documented multiple accounts of Amazon employees who had serious illness or devastating tragedies in their personal lives, who were put on “performance improvement plans,” which were understood to be warnings that signaled possible termination. Apparently, 80 to 85-hour workweeks are often expected of employees.

Anthony Romero, the Executive Director of the ACLU, spoke with CNNMoney about the Times piece on Amazon’s employee environment.

“It raised several question marks. Amazon is one of our country’s great employers and has every right to establish whatever corporate culture suits it. However, it still has to comply with basic requirements that protect employees in every workplace.”

Workers who have to care for sick relatives, and workers who have children, have been allegedly treated cruelly and had their career paths slowed or halted. Since it is women who fall into these categories more than male employees, discrimination against women is possible grounds for a lawsuit. Amazon’s top management is male, unlike some other huge tech corporations.

There are different areas of the law that protect American workers in these circumstances. If the ACLU files lawsuits against Amazon for employees’ specific grievances, there could be relief, depending on the various claims of mistreatment. The Americans With Disabilities Act or the Family and Medical Leave Act might be relevant to a class-action suit against Amazon, or other federal and state laws might apply.

Reporter Henry Rosoff, of KIRO, tweeted an image of the ACLU’s advertisement inviting Amazon employees to contact them regarding possible legal action.

The Seattle Times reported that the ACLU paid $20,000 for the newspaper ad, and $10,000 more to place the ad on other websites. The ACLU said that it has been receiving responses from employees of Amazon since Friday afternoon.

Amazon employees, both past and present, can contact the ACLU to tell their stories and potentially get compensation via a class-action lawsuit, if Amazon is found to have broken the law.

[Image credited to Alan Cleaver via Flickr / CC-BY-2.0]