Amazon is being sued by the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund on behalf of a transgender woman and her husband, both former employees of an Amazon distribution center in Kentucky, over allegations of “unrelenting discrimination and harassment.”
Allegra Schawe-Lane and her husband, Dane Lane, allege they were discriminated against from October 2014 to October 2015, when they were “constructively discharged,” according to court documents. They allege that after Schawe-Lane’s pre-transition identity was revealed, the couple faced “tortious conduct by employees, supervisors, and managers” from the distribution center, according to court documents, had wages withheld, and the brake lines in their car cut. These actions led to health problems for the couple, including multiple hospitalizations, according to court records.
“My husband Dane and I were devoted to our jobs. In return, we were treated atrociously by our co-workers and our bosses, simply because I am a woman,” Allegra Schawe-Lane said in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “No one deserves to be singled out and abused the way we were. 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. 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.”
Amazon declined to comment, citing a practice of not discussing ongoing litigation.
Amazon has in the past fought for the rights of transgender people, joining a lawsuit along with 150 companies opposing a statewide initiative in Washington that sought to limit transgender people’s access to locker rooms and bathrooms. Amazon has also been lauded for its hit show Transparent, which features a lead transgender character.
According to the suit, the trouble began when an employee, designated as a “coach,” learned of Schawe-Lane’s gender transition, and the word began to spread. That allegedly led to harassment from co-workers and managers, as well as pay deductions and violent threats.
The lawsuit alleges managers posted Schawe-Lane’s pre-transition name on scheduling sheets and other places throughout the facility, even though the gender transition occurred prior to her time at the Amazon distribution center. Schawe-Lane was harassed in restrooms and told her visits were being monitored, so she stopped going to the bathroom at work, an action that led to bladder and kidney infections.
The lawsuit says that Schawe-Lane and Lane filed discrimination complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2015. After an investigation, court documents say, the EEOC determined that the evidence showed Amazon had discriminated against the couple, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, and then retaliated against them. That was in February of this year, and then in May, EEOC issued a “notice of right to sue,” which gives permission to file a lawsuit in a court of law.
In addition to damages, the couple is asking the court to force Amazon to put in place programs and policies that would prevent the harassment they allegedly faced during the time working for the company.