A black senior manager at Amazon Web Services (AWS) is suing the tech giant and two of its executives, alleging race and gender discrimination, violation of the Equality Pay Act, as well as sexual assault and harassment.
Charlotte Newman, who was once an adviser to Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), filed a lawsuit against the tech giant in district court in Washington, DC on Monday, according to a report by Vox.
Newman told Vox’s Recode that the discrimination started when she was first hired as a public policy manager and that it involved her being denied a promotion for more than a year, despite her performing aspects of a more senior role. She was eventually elevated to senior manager, more than two and a half years after being hired.
The senior Amazon manager added that her first boss, AWS director Steve Block, used what she believed were racial stereotypes, telling her that her communication style was “too direct,” and “just scary,” and that she “can intimidate people.”
Newman also alleges that former AWS director, Andres Maz sexually harassed her on several occasions, propositioned her, and even sexually assaulted her.
Newman claims that Maz pressed on her lap near her genitalia, groped her thigh under a table at a work dinner, and at one point, yanked her long braided hair when she tried to leave an after-work outing.
“There’s been deep emotional pain,” Newman told Recode. “All of the hard work, all of the sacrifices I made, my education — none of that saved me from someone who’s a predator and living in fear of what else he might do.”
“I strongly believe that Amazon should be harnessing the light of diverse leadership rather than dimming the light of black employees and other employees of color,” added Newman. “For years I had been sort of suffering in silence, [but] I’m sure there are a lot of people who now feel more empowered to add their voices to the story, and hopefully there’s some real change that occurs.”
The report added that Newman had only “come to grips with her experience” after she started working from home in June of last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and while protests and riots transpired across the U.S. over the death of George Floyd.
At that point, Newman decided that she no longer wanted to remain silent, so she filed internal complaints detailing the sexual harassment and assault accusations against Maz, as well as the other discrimination she says she experienced in the workplace.
Amazon reportedly conducted an investigation and eventually terminated Maz’s employment. Meanwhile, Block was required to attend training.
Newman ended up transferring to a new role in a different division of AWS, allegedly because she feared retaliation from her superiors in the wake of her complaints.
The senior manager added that she has also told company representatives that the only way she would consider staying at Amazon long-term is if the company makes some significant changes to its hiring and diversity programs.