Lawyers

Lawyer says Amazon threatens to fireplace two Joliet staff concerned in EEOC grievance

A lawyer for Amazon workers in Joliet said Tuesday that two of them report being threatened with dismissal for speaking out about racially hostile conditions at the warehouse.

Attorney Tamara Holder in a news release said the company has cited a confidentiality agreement that workers sign when they start employment “preventing them from speaking publicly about anything that occurs in the workplace.”

A few employees from the Joliet warehouse spoke at a press conference last week when Holder announced a complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The complaint alleges death threats written on a bathroom wall, use of the N-word in the workplace, and the wearing of Confederate insignia by two workers.

At the July 27 press conference, Holder said 25 workers had filed complaints. On Tuesday, Holder said in the news release that 43 workers have come forward and 32 complaints now have been filed with the EEOC.

The day after the press conference Holder said Amazon management began approaching employees to tell them that they could be found in violation of the confidentiality agreement.

“My clients bravely stepped forward last week to shine a light on an unchecked culture of racism and negligence at Amazon, and within days the company lashed out with intimidation and threats,” Holder said in a statement in the release. “Amazon is trying to silence legitimate complaints about safety in the workplace with a legally dubious and overly broad ‘confidentiality agreement.’”

Holder said the workers “will not be silenced.”

But the two workers allegedly threatened with dismissal “have asked that their identities be protected, fearing further retaliation by Amazon,” the release said.

A spokesman for Amazon did not immediately comment on the news release, which was issued late Tuesday afternoon.

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