Lawyers’ Committee Urges Amazon to Halt Employment Practices that Harm Communities of Color

Employment, Racial Justice

In a letter issued today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice called on Amazon to reverse recently-implemented employment policies that bar qualified individuals from being Amazon delivery drivers based not on job performance, but rather solely on past contact with the criminal justice system. In the Boston area, these new policies have resulted in the mass termination of dozens of Amazon drivers, primarily Black and Latino. One Boston area delivery company summarily “deactivated” approximately 30-40 employees on a single day at Amazon’s direction, nearly all of whom were drivers of color.

“Disproportionately terminating drivers of color undermines public confidence in Amazon’s commitment to diversity,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, the Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice.

Amazon’s practices not only eliminate talented individuals from Amazon’s workforce, they also raise significant legal concerns. Due to over-policing and over-incarceration in communities of color, unnecessarily stringent background checks disproportionately affect Black and Latino individuals. As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has found, overly restrictive background check procedures – particularly when they are unrelated to job performance and do not allow for individualized review – risk violating federal anti-discrimination law.

This is not the first time that Amazon’s commitment to inclusiveness has been questioned. Earlier this year, Amazon offered same-day delivery to all neighborhoods in Greater Boston – except for the predominately Black neighborhood of Roxbury.  Only after public outcry did Amazon reverse course. In light of this recent history, we are concerned that Amazon appears to once again be embarking on a course of conduct that has a similarly discriminatory impact on communities of color.

“Internet-based companies’ role in the national economy is immense – and growing,” said Oren Sellstrom, the Litigation Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. “With this growth comes a responsibility to exercise a leadership role in promoting diversity and rooting out discriminatory practices.”

The Lawyers’ Committee’s letter to Amazon is available here.

Amazon’s mass termination of drivers of color was featured in the Boston Business Journal, Boston Globe, Bay State Banner, Boston Herald, New Boston Post, WGBH, and WBUR.

In a letter released on October 18, socially responsible investors expressed concerns surrounding Amazon’s mass termination of drivers of color. The letter is available letter.