Excerpted from an HRDive blog by Lisa Burden
A group of black and Latino Amazon drivers have sued the e-commerce giant Amazon in Massachusetts state court, alleging that it discriminated against them when it fired them based on background check results.
The drivers claim that in 2016, Amazon adopted a background check policy that led it to fire many minority drivers for offenses that were old and minor. The suit alleges that because black and Latino individuals are convicted at higher rates that the white population, the policy has a disparate impact on minority workers. The six plaintiffs all worked for Amazon in 2016 for several months before they were fired, and the class action seeks to represent all Massachusetts black and Latino drivers who were terminated under the background check policy.
An Amazon spokesperson said its background check process is focused on job-related criminal and motor vehicle convictions and does not consider race, gender, ethnicity, religion or other protected characteristics.
The suit is the latest in a string of Amazon workers complaints this year. The employer’s campaign to share positive stories about employee’s conditions, pay and benefits faced backlash from Twitter users, some of whom pointed to concerns regarding the company’s safety records. And when Amazon decided to adopt a $15 minimum wage but slash bonuses, employees pushed back, causing Amazon to give some workers additional pay bumps to make up for the switch.
Meanwhile, alleged improper background checks have led to some large employer payouts this year. Target paid $3.7 million to resolve a class-action suit over what the NAACP claimed was an “overly broad and outdated criminal background check policy discriminated against African-American and Latino applicants,” after conditional job offers to two prospective employees were rescinded based on two decade-old misdemeanor convictions in one case and a decade-old drug-related felony in the other. A company spokesman said the retailer now gathers criminal background information in the final stages of the hiring process and applicants are given an opportunity to explain and provide information about the circumstances, mitigating factors, good conduct and rehabilitation.
Similarly, Frito-Lay Inc. agreed to pay $2.4 million to resolve claims that it violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by using improper disclosure forms for obtaining consumer reports for pre-employment background checks. The FCRA prohibits employers from obtaining a consumer report without, among other things, providing a “clear and conspicuous disclosure” in a document that consists solely of the disclosure. The plaintiffs alleged Frito-Lay violated the FCRA by including the disclosure in a document that also included extraneous information not allowed by law.