Billionaire Jeff Bezos is being sued by one of his former housekeepers, Mercedes Wedaa. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Washington’s King County Superior Court, alleges that Wedaa worked for three years in the Amazon founder’s primary residence and other homes. It details alarming claims of racial discrimination, long hours, unsafe conditions, and other workplace violations, as first reported on by Geek Wire.
In the case, Wedaa says she sometimes worked between 10 and 14 hour days without any breaks, while supervising a crew of 5-6 other housekeepers. Staff weren’t given lunch or rest breaks while the family was at home, didn’t have a designated break room or sitting area, had no place to eat meals, and had to access the bathroom by climbing out of a window, according to the complaint.
Wedaa has also claimed that other members of the household staff were routinely abusive towards her and her fellow Hispanic employees, in a way they weren’t towards white workers. And that when she tried to take any of the above problems to higher-ups, she was retaliated against and ultimately fired under false pretenses.
And in her termination notice, the “defendents cited the ridiculously concocted reason that [Wedaa] appeared ‘unhappy’ and that this was having a negative effect on the housekeeping team,” says the lawsuit.
Between the alleged lack of breaks, inaccessible bathroom, racial discrimination, acts of retaliation, wrongful termination, and wage losses related to all of the above — Wedaa’s legal team is claiming nine different causes of action.
On top of Bezos, the complaint also lists Zefram LLC and Northwestern LLC as co-defendants. The two companies manage Bezos’ personal investments and properties. Harry Korrell, a lawyer representing Northwestern, flatly denied all of the allegations outlined in the suit, according to Geek Wire.
“We’ve investigated these claims, they have no merit, and we’ll defend against them,” wrote Korrell in an email to the outlet.
Another, unnamed source from Northwestern LLC also denied the allegations about working conditions to Geek Wire. “There are two areas that serve as break-rooms, and both have seating, tables, stocked refrigerators, microwave, coffee machine, air fryer and snacks,” the person reportedly said. “There are multiple bathrooms available for staff use near these break-rooms. Free lunches were ordered for and delivered to the staff daily.”
However, the claims laid out in Wedaa’s lawsuit are far from the first time that Bezos has been accused of flouting labour laws and mistreating workers. While the billionaire was still CEO of Amazon, the company’s warehouses were often dangerous places to work. Delivery drivers and warehouse employees were expected to meet near-impossible quotas. And bathroom breaks were a perennial issue. And much of this is seemingly still true under Amazon’s current CEO successor, Andy Jassy.
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