Friday's Seattle Times newspaper contains a full-page ad from the American Civil Liberties Union. It’s an open letter to Amazon employees, offering to help sue the company if they believe their rights have been violated.
In a recent New York Times story some Amazon employees described harsh responses from supervisors when they had to cope with illness or family emergencies.
The ACLU’s Executive Director Anthony Romero says that’s what prompted his group’s “open letter.” “It’s really an invitation to Amazon workers,” he said, “to reach out to us if they feel they’ve been the victim of unlawful discrimination either based on the fact that they were pregnant or they had a sick family member or maybe perhaps they themselves were sick.”
Romero said the cases in the article were anecdotal, and a lot of fact-finding would be needed before any lawsuits would emerge. The ACLU’s effort is aimed at women, noting that there are no women among Amazon’s top leadership, and that women are more likely to seek family leave. Employees are urged to contact the ACLU at the e-mail address, GenderEqualityAmazon@aclu.org.
Romero said this isn’t meant as an attack on Amazon’s corporate culture.
“Our only concern is making sure that as tech companies establish their business models and their corporate practices, they need to be reminded by groups like ours that there are certain basic rights and responsibilities that they have to their workers,” he said.
Romero said he shops on Amazon, calling it “a great company.” He said he is encouraged by CEO Jeff Bezos’ response urging employees to contact human resources if they feel treated unfairly. Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.