Amazon Joliet warehouse workers file complaints alleging unsafe, hostile working environment

Workers allege racist death threats were made against Black employees

Evelyn Holmes Image
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
Amazon workers file complaints after alleged racist death threats
Some Amazon Joliet warehouse workers allege Black employees were forced to work in a hostile environment after the discovery of racist death threats.

JOLIET, Ill. (WLS) -- Some Amazon employees are making allegations against the company, including unsafe and hostile working environments at a suburban Joliet warehouse.

Tori Davis said she was fired from her job as a trainer after she accused her employer, Amazon, of forcing African American employees to work in an unsafe and racially hostile environment following the discovery of racist death threats against Black workers at the company's Joliet warehouse.

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Amazon workers at the company's Staten Island warehouse lined up to cast a vote on whether to unionize.

"They were trying to sweep it under the rug," Davis said. "The way that this situation was handled, it was strange."

Handwritten threats were found scrawled on two bathroom stall doors inside a women's bathroom at the e-seller's southwest suburban fulfillment center on May 25. Eyewitness News has blurred the images because of their offensive nature.

Now, Davis and some of her co-workers are taking action. Through their attorney, more than two dozen workers have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

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So far, 26 complaints have been filed alleging that not only did Amazon refuse to pay Black workers who were too afraid to stay on the job following the incident, and also that the company allowed at least two male workers to wear Confederate flag outfits to work numerous times.

"This is about protecting workers in America who shouldn't have to go to work in fear," said Tamara Holder, an attorney for the workers.

In an emailed statement, Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha said: "Amazon works hard to protect our employees from any form of discrimination and to provide an environment where employees feel safe. Hate or racism have no place in our society and are certainly not tolerated by Amazon."

In 2021, Amazon faced several discrimination lawsuits. Last week, federal regulators inspected Amazon warehouses in the Chicago area and elsewhere after getting tips about hazardous work conditions.

Patrick French said in the 21 months he's worked for Amazon, he's remains concerned about his safety and that of his girlfriend and uncle who also work there.

"I wanted to make sure I would be able to have her in my sight just in case someone were to come inside the building," French said.

The workers must now wait for Amazon to respond to the allegations. They said they hope to resolve the issues but are prepared to file a lawsuit if they have to.