Amazon warehouse workers in Illinois allege racist work environment

Employees at an Amazon warehouse in Joliet, Illinois, filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the company, alleging abuse, racial discrimination and retaliation.

According to the lawsuit filed Tuesday, a group of black employees at the MDW2 Fulfillment Center said Confederate images on co-workers’ clothes, racist death threats written in restrooms, and lack of security and accountability contributed to an environment racist workplace since late 2021. Tamara Holder, a lawyer specializing in institutional violence and women’s rights, said her clients are no longer just looking for changes in the workplace to address and resolve these issues appropriately, but also damages for emotional strain caused by stressful working conditions.

“We don’t know what that amount is at this point. But I can tell you that after working in an environment where it’s racially hostile, people experience extreme emotional distress,” she told ABC. News. “Our message to Amazon is that their behavior after discovering our cases only increases our damage because people are more afraid than less.”

PICTURED: Amazon worker Tori Davis listens during a press conference outside an Amazon Go in Chicago.  July 27, 2022.

Amazon worker Tori Davis listens during a press conference outside an Amazon Go in Chicago. July 27, 2022.

Chicago Tribune via Getty Images

As the case receives more attention, Holder said employees are hesitant to speak further about these claims for fear of further retaliation from management at the MDW2 fulfillment center, raising concerns for the future of this case and the livelihoods of its customers.

“They allegedly told their employees that if they spoke out they would 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 contact her about the warehouse work environment. Davis, who was fired earlier this month after raising the alarm over her concerns, told ABC affiliate WLS the death threats were dismissed by Amazon.

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

PHOTO: An Amazon delivery station and Amazon fulfillment center stand in Burbank, California on June 24, 2022.

An Amazon delivery station and an Amazon fulfillment center are in Burbank, California on June 24, 2022.

Getty Images, FILE

An Amazon spokesperson, 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 has no place in our company and is certainly not tolerated by Amazon,” says the press release.

The MDW2 distribution center did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Holder said she plans to do everything in her power to pursue the complaint and ensure her clients’ voices are heard.

“I think 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’re not too big for me and they’re not too big for the people I represent… We’re not leaving.”

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