To Amazon’s Board of Directors:
We, the undersigned, urge Amazon to end the use of forced arbitration provisions in your employment contracts so that workers that have suffered from discrimination and harassment, especially sexual harassment, have access to a neutral judicial system when a dispute arises. Your May 30 shareholder meeting is the perfect opportunity for you to stand on the right side of history.
The #MeToo movement has shined light on how systemic discrimination and harassment in the workplace, especially sexual harassment, can be silenced for years because of the insidious practice of forced arbitration. Forced arbitration clauses, also known as “rip-off clauses,” frequently are hidden in the fine print of “take-it-or-leave-it” agreements. These clauses deprive people of their day in court when they are harmed. Because they constitute a corporate Get Out of Jail Free card for wrongdoing, they are ubiquitous in contracts. Forced arbitration is rarely cheap or quick and it is often harmful to employees, especially women, people of color, immigrants or LGBTQ people.
Amazon is being sued by workers with whom you contract. Amazon has asked the court to force those workers into private “courts” of their choosing and to prevent the workers from banding together to defend their rights.
As a service used by millions of people worldwide, Amazon has the power to influence other companies with its actions. Amazon is seeking to build a second corporate headquarters, with one of its criteria that the location must be a diverse and vibrant environment. And as a tech company that prides itself on a progressive work environment, removing forced arbitration provisions for all claims related to the workplace and employees should be no-brainer.
A workplace culture that tolerates ongoing discrimination and harassment must be eliminated. Forced arbitration only serves to enhance this culture by making victims of discrimination and harassment less likely to report the behavior. Ending forced arbitration is just one of the many steps that need to be taken to end this toxic culture, but it is a crucial one. Making these important changes would make Amazon an industry leader in addressing the ills of discrimination, harassment and all insidious forms of workplace wrongdoing. As you narrow the locations for your second corporate headquarters, we urge you to consider the impact that taking away a worker’s access to justice will have on a proposed location’s willingness to have you in their city.
Now is the time to be on the right side of history and set an example as a responsible company in the marketplace by removing forced arbitration provisions for all claims from your employment contracts.