Former housekeeper sues Jeff Bezos, alleging discrimination and wrongful termination

Bezos' attorney dismissed the lawsuit as "absurd" in a statement to ABC News.

November 4, 2022, 9:36 PM

A woman who was hired to work at Jeff Bezos' home as a lead housekeeper has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Amazon founder and former CEO and his personal property management companies, claiming she was wrongfully terminated in retaliation after complaining about allegedly harsh and unsafe working conditions.

In the complaint, which was filed in the King County Superior Court in Seattle and obtained by ABC News, Mercedes Wedaa, who said she has worked as a housekeeper for 18 years for several high-profile clients, alleges that there was "no reasonably accessible bathroom" or an area where the housekeeping staff could eat. She also claimed that she often worked up to 12 or 14 hours a day but "no one ever told her to take a break" and she was not aware that she was "legally entitled to rest and lunch breaks" at the time.

PHOTO: Jeff Bezos speaks during his news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, Sept. 19, 2019.
Jeff Bezos speaks during his news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, Sept. 19, 2019.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP, FILE

"Because there was no readily accessible bathroom, plaintiff and other housekeepers spend large part of their day unable to use the toilet even though they needed to," the complaint alleges. "As a result of this, the housekeepers frequently developed urinary tract infections [UTIs]. Plaintiff and other housekeepers related the frequency of UTIs with not being able to use the toilet when they needed to."

The lawsuit also lists Zefram LLC and Northwestern LLC as defendants entities through which the plaintiff claims she was employed.

The lawsuit claims that along with Bezos, Wedaas also took orders from Bezos' girlfriend Lauren Sanchez, but does not list Sanchez as a defendant.

Bezos attorney Harry Korrell dismissed the lawsuit in a statement to ABC News on Friday.

"We have investigated the claims, and they lack merit. Ms. Wedaa made over six figures annually and was the lead housekeeper. She was responsible for her own break and meal times, and there were several bathrooms and breakrooms available to her and other staff," Korrell said. "The evidence will show that Ms. Wedaa was terminated for performance reasons. She initially demanded over $9M, and when the company refused, she decided to file this suit. Given their backgrounds, the suggestion that Mr. Bezos, Ms. Sanchez, or Northwestern LLC discriminated against Ms. Wedaa based on her race or national origin is absurd."

Wedaa's attorney Patrick Leo McGuigan told ABC News in a statement on Friday that "in a civil employment action, [a] defendant portraying the plaintiff victim as a money grabber is nothing new."

"Ms. Wedaa has worked hard all her life, she is a very credible person, and compelling evidence supports her claims," McGuigan said. "No employer is above the law, not even Jeff Bezos and the organizations he uses to locate and hire people to work for him at his home and at his other properties. Federal and state labor and employment laws dictate that employees must be paid for the work they perform and that they must be able to perform their work in a discrimination free, safe, sanitary, and healthy workplace."

PHOTO: Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez attends "The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power" World Premiere at Leicester Square on August 30, 2022 in London.
Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez attends "The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power" World Premiere at Leicester Square on August 30, 2022 in London.
Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images, FILE

In the lawsuit, Wedaa claims that she was initially able to access a bathroom in a small security room near the laundry room until "it was decided that housekeepers using the bathroom was a breach of security protocol."

The complaint further alleges that housekeepers could only access the house through the laundry room door, but were not allowed inside the house if the family was home unless they were performing a cleaning assignment:

"For about 18 months, in order to use the bathroom, plaintiff and other housekeepers were forced to climb out the laundry window to the outside, then run along the path to the mechanical room, through the mechanical room and downstairs to a bathroom. This toilet was used by both men and women, for example, grounds staff used it too," the complaint alleges.

Wedaa said she worked for Bezos from 2019-2021 and during that time was promoted to lead housekeeper, but was later terminated after she complained about the alleged lack of access to the bathroom and break areas.

Wedaa, who is Hispanic, said that the housekeeping staff was all Hispanic until a Caucasian woman was hired in late 2020. She alleges that she complained after an undocumented immigrant was hired and also voiced concerns that one of the white house managers discriminated against the Hispanic workers, but faced retaliation for speaking out, including a demotion. The lawsuit states the undocumented worker was eventually let go.

Wedaa claimed that she was ultimately improperly terminated.

"Defendants cited the ridiculously concocted reason that she appeared 'unhappy' and that this was having a negative effect on the housekeeping team," the lawsuit states.

In suing Bezos, Wedaa is asking for the amount of damages to be determined at trial.