A new lawsuit filed by one of Jeff Bezos’ former housekeepers alleges that employees were forced to work extended shifts for as long as 14 hours without breaks, and there was “no reasonably accessible bathroom for the housekeepers,” among a laundry list of other “unsafe and unsanitary” working conditions. Mercedes Wedaa, who at one point supervised a full staff of Bezos’ housekeepers and no longer works for him, filed the lawsuit in Seattle on Tuesday, further alleging that some of Bezos’ subordinates discriminated against Hispanic houseworkers like Wedaa in favor of their white counterparts.
The lawsuit names Bezos as well as two companies alleged to manage his properties, Zefram LLC and Northwestern LLC, as defendants. Wedaa and her lawyers don’t name a specific dollar amount they’re seeking in damages.
The details laid out by Wedaa are pretty jarring. “For about 18 months, in order to use a bathroom, Plaintiff and other housekeepers were forced to climb out the laundry room window to the outside,” her lawsuit claims. “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.”
At one point, housekeepers were told to use the bathroom attached to a security room where security guards monitored cameras on the property, but guards denied them access “because it was decided that housekeepers using the bathroom was a breach of security protocol.” As a result of inadequate access, the suit says, housekeepers “frequently developed Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).” All of this sounds pretty reminiscent of ongoing allegations from Amazon factory workers and delivery drivers that, denied bathroom breaks and under strict deadlines, they’ve been forced to pee in bottles.
Wedaa says in the suit that in 2019, she and other Hispanic employees were told “to work around a family without being seen.” “Employers discriminated against Plaintiff because of her race, forced Plaintiff to work long hours without rest or meal breaks, exposed Plaintiff to unsafe and unsanitary work conditions, retaliated against and wrongfully terminated Plaintiff’s employment,” the lawsuit claims.
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Bezos has since responded to the lawsuit as you might expect a cartoonishly evil billionaire to respond: by claiming it’s impossible for him to be racist toward Hispanic people because his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, is Mexican-American. “The evidence will show that Ms. Wedaa was terminated for performance reasons,” Harry Korrell, an attorney for Bezos, said in a statement on Thursday. “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.”
Hopefully it goes without saying that dating or being attracted to a person of a certain racial community doesn’t excuse your racist behaviors. And Bezos’ choice to wield a romantic partner who’s a person of color as a shield against allegations of racism frankly speaks for itself. This is not a great response!
A source at Northwestern LLC disputed Wedaa’s claims to NBC and called her suit “a money grab.”
You’d think, at this point, the Amazon founder would be better at making excuses—his factory and delivery workers have been alleging all kinds of abuse for years now. Documents have shown Amazon is very much aware that its workers pee in bottles. As a response to all of the controversy, the most that the company has been able to come up with is union busting and embarrassing Twitter fights with Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
Fortunately enough for Bezos, his former housekeeper’s truly horrifying allegations coincide with some other very bad headlines for another billionaire right about now. So, as the world burns all around us—mostly because billionaires shouldn’t exist—at least he has that going for him!