Black and Latino delivery drivers have filed a class-action complaint against Amazon after alleged discriminatory background checks led to their employment being terminated last year. Lawyers filed the complaint on January 31 with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, according to the Boston Business Journal.
The Boston-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice first accused Amazon of discriminatory practices in October after a number of drivers were fired from a contractor that provides drivers to the company for its delivery service.
The contractor, Miller’s Express, reportedly fired the employees at the request of Amazon. This decision came shortly after the tech giant revised its background check policies. These changes took effect at the beginning of August, when Amazon began requiring employees to complete a background check through a specific company.
The newly filed complaint alleges that the change in background check policies resulted in a disproportionate number of Black and Latinx employees being fired. Unlike a company’s flexibility with employee equipment budgets — approximately $70 is average for work boots — background checks follow fairly strict guidelines.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice publicized the employment terminations last year in the hopes that pressure from the public would convince Amazon to reconsider the way it handles background checks, but to no avail. The complaint is the first legal step that needs to be taken before formally suing the company in court.
Attorneys defending the fired drivers argue that only minor offenses were present on their records and that each of the drivers was performing duties without issue. More importantly, attorneys argue that Amazon’s decision to dismiss every employee who fell below a certain level was in violation of federal employment rules on the grounds of being a “bright line” standard.
Oren Sellstrom, the litigation director for the lawyers’ committee, explained in a public statement that Amazon’s final decision “had nothing to do with their ability to perform the job, but was based solely on an overly strict background check policy.”
A spokesperson for Amazon declined to comment on the discrimination complaints but alleged that the current background check policy doesn’t take “race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or other protected characteristics” into consideration at all. Regardless, it’s clear that the attorneys are willing to more forward in this case.