Housekeeper accuses Jeff Bezos of racism and mistreatment
A woman who worked as a housekeeper for former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has filed a lawsuit against her ex-boss. The plaintiff, Mercedes Wedaa, claims she was forced to work long hours without meal breaks and was also discriminated against on the basis of her ethnicity.
Wedaa lodged her complaint in a Seattle state court on Tuesday. She says she began working for the billionaire in September 2019 and spent nearly three years on the staff. She was put in charge of a team of five to six housekeepers.
The former employee recounted having been repeatedly forced to work 10 to 14 hours a day without rest. Moreover, the housekeepers were allegedly denied access to a toilet in a nearby security room, which meant they had to climb out a window to reach another bathroom.
According to the complaint, the plaintiff and other Hispanic employees were supposedly treated differently from Bezos’ white staff.
At one point, a household manager even “became aggressive and abusive” with Wedaa, the woman claims. Wedaa was eventually terminated. She is seeking back pay and benefits, as well as damages.
The plaintiff's lawyer, Patrick McGuigan, insisted that the US “labor and employment laws” clearly stipulate that employees “must be able to perform… work in a safe, sanitary and healthy workplace.”
Harry Korrell, an attorney representing Bezos, meanwhile, argued that the claims made by Wedaa “have no merit,” and vowed to “defend [his client] against them.”
Having founded Amazon back in 1994 as an online bookstore, over the years Bezos successfully branched out into several other areas of e-commerce, and later into retail. Amazon is now a multinational tech company on par with the likes of Alphabet, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft. Bloomberg and Forbes ranked Bezos as the world’s wealthiest person from 2017 until 2021. Since then, however, he has slipped to fourth place, with a net worth of $115.6 billion.
Meanwhile, the company has also received a lot of flak in recent years over its allegedly grueling and even unsafe workplace practices. Claims of racial discrimination have been made against Amazon as well.
The tech giant has faced several lawsuits filed by current and former employees as a result.