Twenty-six workers at an Amazon facility in Joliet have filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging a racist work environment and retaliation against an employee who spoke out, their attorney said Wednesday.
The workers filed the complaints with the EEOC this week and hope their claims can be evaluated as a class, according to attorney Tamara Holder, who said additional worker complaints would be filed soon.
At a news conference Wednesday, former Amazon employee Tori Davis said she raised concerns about Amazon’s handling of a racist death threat that workers say was scrawled on a bathroom wall at the warehouse to end of May. Davis, 34, said she was fired from her after telling Amazon she would take legal action if the company didn’t address her and her coworkers’ concerns.
The complaint filed with the EEOC, provided by Holder, includes images of two messages using the N-word allegedly written on the wall of the women’s restroom. One says “(expletive) is going to die”, while the other refers to “these (expletive) in MDW2”. MDW2 is the name of the Amazon facility where the employees represented by Holder work.
Davis, who worked at the facility training new employees, said the day the death threat was discovered, she left the job without pay after word of the threats spread throughout the facility.
“We had to choose whether we stay and make money and can pay our bills first time, or go home and be safe,” said Davis, who is African American. “And that’s not right”.
According to the complaint, Amazon sent a text message to workers the night after the graffiti was found, saying that police had investigated the graffiti and “identified no threats to the security of the site.”
In a statement Wednesday, Amazon spokesman Richard Rocha said the company “works hard to protect our employees from any form of discrimination and to provide an environment in which employees feel safe.”
“Hate or racism has no place in our society and certainly Amazon does not tolerate it,” Rocha said.
He did not respond to questions from the Tribune about the workers’ allegations or the reasons for Davis’ firing.
Complaints filed with the EEOC also allege that the company has allowed white employees at the Joliet facility to wear Confederate flag attire at work, including attire consisting of “leather boots with a Confederate flagpole and a shirt with the confederate flag prominently displayed on the back and arms.”
“There is no sign more serious and more terrifying than a death threat in a workplace where white workers are allowed to wear Confederate flag suits with impunity,” Holder said, noting that the death threats were rare. after a racist mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store. where 10 Black people died and before the July 4th mass shooting at a parade in Highland Park.
“We’ve really reached a low point in America where we have to go to work for fear of not coming home to our families,” Holder said.
Patrick French, an Amazon employee in Joliet who said he had worked for the company for more than a year and a half, said that when he learned of the death threats, he was more concerned about the well-being of his girlfriend and uncle than They also worked on the installation. He wants Amazon to provide more security, he said.
“It’s a good job. He’s got good opportunities,” French, 20, said. “Amazon is just missing certain areas.”
Davis, who is appealing her termination with Amazon in a bid to get her job back, said she would like to see more safety protocols at the Joliet facility, as well as a Black worker representative at the site. Davis said he started working there in November 2021.
EEOC spokeswoman Nicole St. Germain said federal law prohibited the agency from confirming or denying the existence of any complaint.
St. Germain said that after complaints are filed with the EEOC, the agency begins an investigative process to determine if a business has violated federal law. If the EEOC determines that a business has acted illegally, it can seek monetary compensation for individuals or class members and punitive damages against the business. You can also seek precautionary measures, such as requiring training or other changes in the workplace.