Jeff Besoz Hit With Lawsuit Over Discriminatory Behavior Towards ‘Hispanic Housekeepers’
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has been hit with a lawsuit alleging discrimination and unsafe working conditions by a former member of the housekeeping staff named Mercedes Wedaa who, among other things, claims that she and the staff were forced to climb out of a laundry room window and walk to a secluded bathroom on the property.
According to NBC News, Bezos is named as a defendant alongside the two companies that manage his property, Zefram LLC and Northwestern LLC. All the defendants have wholeheartedly denied all the claims and an anonymous source at Northwestern LLC has called the lawsuit “a money grab.”
Wedaa’s attorney, Patrick McGuigan, filed the lawsuit last Tuesday, writing, “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.”
After being hired in fall 2019 as a house coordinator, Wedaa was soon managing an entire staff of housekeepers, most of whom were Latino. According to the lawsuit, the staff was instructed “to work around a family without being seen” and that, during shifts that could go up to 14 hours, there was “no reasonably accessible bathroom for the housekeepers,” an accusation similar to ones made by Amazon drivers who peed in bottles during their shifts.
At first, the staff was permitted to use the same bathrooms as the security detail but were soon forbidden from those areas of the property because of safety and security concerns. The solution, according to the lawsuit, was not only degrading to the staff but left many of them suffering from Urinary Tract Infections because they had no access to nearby restrooms.
“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,” writes McGuigan. “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.”
The lawsuit also mentions instances of racial discrimination against Wedaa and the rest of the staff, who were mostly Latino save for one white housekeeper. Wedaa claims the assistant house managers treated her and “the other Hispanic housekeepers who were hired differently from Caucasian employees.”
The management staff reportedly “mocked and ridiculed” Wedaa but “did not treat the only white housekeeper” with the same lack of dignity and respect. Bezos’ attorney made the claim that, because Bezos is dating a Mexican-American woman, the claims of discrimination are “absurd.” He added, “The evidence will show that Ms. Wedaa was terminated for performance reasons.”
Harry Korrell, the attorney representing Bezos, has said that the claims “lack merit” following the results of an investigation into Wedaa’s allegations. “Ms. Wedaa made over six figures annually and was the lead housekeeper,” Korrell said in a statement. “She was responsible for her own break and meal times, and there were several bathrooms and breakrooms available to her and other staff.”
The source at Northwestern LLC corroborated Korrell’s claims, and said that the house staff had two dedicated breakrooms with the necessary amenities, including tables, chairs, a coffeemaker, a fully-stocked fridge, and an assortment of snacks. Korrell also said staff had easy access to restrooms near the break areas and were even allowed to use the kitchen in the main house when Bezos and his family were away.
Wedaa and her attorney have not publicly released a dollar amount for damages related to the suit, but Korrell has said that Wedaa is seeking something in the range of $9 million dollars.
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