Employees at Amazon warehouse in Illinois allege racially hostile work environment
"They don't know if somebody wants to kill them," attorney Tamara Holder said.
Employees at a Joliet, Illinois, Amazon warehouse have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the company, alleging corporate abuse, racial discrimination, and retaliation.
According to the complaint filed Tuesday, a group of Black employees at the MDW2 Fulfillment Center said that Confederate imagery on coworkers' clothing, racist death threats written in bathroom stalls, and a lack of security and accountability have contributed to a racially hostile work environment since late 2021. Institutional abuse and women's rights attorney Tamara Holder said her clients are now not only seeking change in the workplace to appropriately address and resolve these issues, but monetary damages for emotional duress caused by stressful working conditions.
"We don't know what that amount comes to at this point. But I can tell you that after working in a climate where it's racially hostile, people are experiencing extreme emotional distress," she told ABC News. "Our message to Amazon is that their behavior after our cases come to light is only increasing our damages because people are becoming more afraid rather than less."
As the case receives more attention, Holder said that employees are hesitant to speak out any more about these claims for fear of further retaliation from the MDW2 Fulfillment Center management, causing concern for the future of this case and her clients' livelihoods.
"They are allegedly telling their employees that if they speak out, they will be fired because they signed an agreement to remain silent," Holder told ABC News.
Holder says former MDW2 employee Tori Davis was the first to make contact with her about the warehouse's work environment. Davis, who was fired earlier this month after raising the alarm about her concerns, told ABC affiliate WLS that the death threats were dismissed by Amazon.
"They were trying to sweep it under the rug," Davis said. "The way that this situation was handled, it was strange."
A spokesperson for Amazon, Richard Rocha, issued a statement to ABC News.
"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," the statement read.
The MDW2 Fulfillment Center did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.
Holder said she plans to do everything in her power to see the complaint through and ensure that her clients' voices are heard.
"I think that they had an opportunity here to make it better. And instead they're taking a very, very different aggressive stance to make it worse," she said. "They are not too big for me and they are not too big for the people that I represent…We are not going away."