A Black manager at Amazon Web Services is suing her own employer, alleging management fostered 'shocking racial insensitivity' and left her vulnerable to sexual assault

  • A Black manager at Amazon’s cloud unit is suing over claims of racial and gender discrimination.
  • The lawsuit alleges Amazon routinely pays and promotes Black employees less.
  • It also accuses a former Amazon public policy director of sexual harassment and assault.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A Black senior manager at Amazon’s cloud unit filed a lawsuit against the company and three current or former executives on Monday, alleging racial and gender discrimination and accusing a former Amazon public policy director of sexual harassment and assault. You can read the full lawsuit below.

Charlotte Newman, an Amazon Web Services senior manager, claimed in a lawsuit filed in a Washington, DC district court that Amazon routinely pays and promotes Black employees less and fosters “shocking racial insensitivity” through a lack of sufficient workplace training and anti-discrimination policies. The suit also claims that managers display a dismissive attitude toward Black and female employees that left Newman vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault. 

The lawsuit also alleges Black and female employees are underrepresented at Amazon because of racially and sexually discriminatory attitudes of company managers. Newman, for example, alleges that her former direct manager at AWS “used stereotypical racial tropes when criticizing her about how she speaks in meetings,” including calling her “aggressive,” “too direct,” and “just scary.”

Newman, a former adviser to US Sen. Cory Booker who joined Amazon in 2017, alleges she was hired at a lower level than merited by her qualifications, leading to lower pay and fewer stock awards — which she says increased her pay disparity from her peers as Amazon’s stock price grew.

The complaint alleges that “Ms. Newman, along with other Black employees, therefore is being damaged by a baked-in disparity in pay (particularly in terms of equity) and seniority from which she likely can never catch up.”

“Amazon works hard to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture, and these allegations do not reflect those efforts or our values. We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind and thoroughly investigate all claims and take appropriate action. We are currently investigating the new allegations included in this lawsuit,” a company spokesperson said.

Newman’s attorney, Douglas Wigdor of Wigdor LLP, declined to comment beyond the contents of the complaint.

The tech industry overall has a bad track record when it comes to diversity and pay equity: Google last month reached a deal with the US Department of Labor to pay nearly $2.6 million in back wages over claims the company’s pay and hiring practices disadvantaged women and Asian employees. Vox recently investigated Amazon’s treatment of Black employees. 

Amazon, the lawsuit alleges, routinely underpays Black and female employees by giving them lower titles than white and male counterparts. Very few Black employees occupy positions at high levels of the company, according to the lawsuit, which points out Amazon’s senior leadership team didn’t have any Black executives until last summer.

“This imbalance and segregation of roles speaks volumes about the low priority placed by the company on advancing and hiring Black employees into corporate roles, and how it makes the climb of even an excellent candidate and employee like Charlotte Newman that much more steep,” the lawsuit states.

The alleged “dismissive attitudes” toward Black and female employees by management “left her vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault by a senior coworker,” who, the complaint alleges, “put his left hand under the table and pressed on Ms. Newman’s lap, in proximity to her genitalia, then grabbed and groped the upper thigh of her right leg.”

The complaint specifically calls out comments made by Andy Jassy, the Amazon Web Services CEO recently named to succeed Jeff Bezos as CEO of the overall Amazon organization later this year, including calling his tweets decrying police violence against Black Americans “superficial gestures.” Improving workplace diversity is said to be a focus for Jassy.

“Just as Mr. Jassy expects better of the legal and political leaders of the United States, Ms. Newman and Amazon’s employees expect better from their employer’s executive and managerial leader,” the complaint states. 

Read the lawsuit in full below:


Are you an Amazon Web Services employee, or do you have insight to share? Contact reporter Ashley Stewart via encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-425-344-8242) or email ([email protected]).

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