A couple in Kentucky are suing online giant Amazon, alleging they were harassed and discriminated against while working at one of the company’s warehouses in 2014-2015.
Transgender woman Allegra Schawe-Lane and her husband Dane Lane say they chose to work for Amazon because of its LGBT+ friendly reputation—but were soon targeted by co-workers with crude slurs based on gender and sexuality and were threatened with violence.
“I thought we would be safe and accepted,” Schawe-Lane said in a telephone interview with AAP.
“Instead it was like a bad dream. Every day, I’d wish it was Candid Camera and someone would pop out and say it was all a joke.”
The continued harassment from co-workers at the Amazon shipping facility culminated in what the plaintiffs allege could have been a fatal accident. The couple discovered their car had been tampered with, finding the brake lines severed.
Complaints to their supervisors went unanswered with the lawsuit alleging that Amazon management at the warehouse even participated in discriminatory practices.
Leaders at the warehouse refused to use Schawe-Lane’s first name—using her deadname instead, which they printed on her name tag. She also claims that the warehouse failed to calculate the correct amount of hours she had worked, resulting in a loss of income.
The couple is being represented by the Transgender Legal Defence and Education Fund (TLDEF).
The organisation’s executive directory—Jillian Weiss —says the lawsuit sends “a strong message”.
“No one should ever be subjected to job discrimination on the basis of their sex or disability.
“All Americans deserve an equal chance to work hard and earn a living for themselves and their families, without fear of being targeted for being themselves.”
Weiss added that Amazon’s policy of diversity and inclusion did not align with how the ordeal has been handled so far.
“We have a company that touts its transgender friendliness,” Weiss says.
“Yet in Kentucky, when a transgender person comes and says, ‘Look, I’m being harassed,’ they get no help.”
Weiss also pointed out that the e-commerce giant’s TV and film production arm—Amazon Studios—has been creating powerful stories about the transgender community.
“We are particularly disheartened about this discrimination at Amazon, given the impact of its highly celebrated digital series, Transparent, a ground breaking program on Amazon Prime that continues to win awards for depicting the transgender experience in a positive, sensitive and multi-dimensional manner.
“Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund even honoured Transparent at its Freedom Awards Benefit in 2015,” Weiss said.
“While we in no way connect this case to the program and its talented writers, actors and producers, we do call on Amazon to examine the disconnect between the message of its hit show Transparent and the discrimination perpetrated against Allegra and Dane at Amazon’s Hebron, Kentucky shipping facility.”
Schawe-Lane and Lane have started a crowdfunding page to help cover some of their legal costs.
"The trauma we withstood still impacts us negatively today, creating serious health problems and leaving us with no money to pay for the doctors we desperately need," they write on the page.
“We are filing this lawsuit to ensure that no other transgender person or their spouse ever face such job discrimination at Amazon in the future," said Schawe-Lane.