Amazon manager files suit over racial discrimination

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Amazon has been forced to reevaluate its hiring practices after a manager filed a lawsuit over racial and gender discrimination in early March. In her lawsuit, Charlotte Newman, a senior manager, claims that Amazon hired her for a lower managerial position than she applied for and qualified for – a practice otherwise known as down leveling. Newman also notes that she was not alone in experiencing down leveling. She has heard accounts from other Black workers that the practice is common at Amazon.

Down leveling at Amazon

Chanin Kelly-Rae, hired in 2019 as global manager for diversity at Amazon, agrees. She says many Black employees feel it’s more difficult for them to get promotions at Amazon and that Black women particularly experience down leveling. She says Amazon down leveled her. She says she qualifies as a level 7 employee, but Amazon hired her as a level 6.

She also says that employees who experience down leveling:

  • Lose out on higher pay
  • Lose the ability to receive promotions faster
  • Earn less Amazon stock than if the company hired them at the right level position

Amazon evaluating how it conducts performance reviews

Because of Newman’s and Kelly-Rae’s complaints, Amazon is reevaluating how it conducts performance reviews. The company will investigate if performance ratings for minority employees are significantly statistically different from those of white employees.

The company also wants to double the number of Black employees in leadership roles in 2021. Currently, only 3.8% of Amazon leadership are Black employees.

Many large companies have focused on bolstering diversity and helping minorities achieve higher-ranking positions in recent years. This shows the national conversation on discrimination and racial justice has impacted the corporate world too.