Amazon plans a racial equity audit of its workforce

Retail giant Amazon has hired a legal firm to conduct a workforce audit focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion, joining three other major US companies that recently launched audits on racial equity.

Amazon’s audit “will assess any racially disparate impact on our nearly one million American hourly employees resulting from our policies, programs and practices,” the company said in a regulatory filing last week. Former US Attorney General Loretta Lynch – who now works for New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison – will lead the audit.

The announcement comes nearly a year after Amazon shareholders began pushing the company to conduct a racial equity audit. In a formal audit request, filed last year, shareholders praise Amazon’s management for its strong progress on diversity, but note a few exceptional instances of discriminatory hiring practices that shine a light on the company. negative, according to the record.

In one case, employee Charlotte Newman sued Amazon, alleging the company has an unfair tendency to “uneven” black employees. According to the lawsuit, Newman, a black woman with an MBA from Harvard, was interviewed for a senior position at Amazon, but was offered a job at a lower pay grade than the one for which she had been offered. applied, even though she was qualified for the senior executive position. She accepted the job anyway and was later asked to perform a senior executive role, the lawsuit says.

Amazon also made headlines two years ago for firing a black man, Christian Smalls, who protested working conditions at a Staten Island warehouse. Smalls is now the president of the Amazon Syndicate.


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“Due to the nature and scale of the controversies that Amazon repeatedly faces, we believe it is in the best interests of shareholders for Amazon to proactively identify and mitigate risks through a independent racial equity audit,” the shareholders said in their application.

Amazon said it would publicly share the results of its audit, but did not say when the work will be complete.

Shortage of minorities in senior management

While Amazon’s workforce statistics show that between 2018 and 2020 the company grew its black and Hispanic workforce, most of that growth occurred in delivery drivers and warehouse workers. Less than 4% of Amazon’s top executives were black or Hispanic in 2020, according to the company’s most recent data.

“We know that diversity, equity and inclusion are important and recognize that advancing diverse employees begins with proactive recruitment, retention and development,” Amazon said in the filing. “We believe diversity and inclusion is good for business – and more fundamentally – just plain good.”

Tyson Foods, one of the world’s largest meat processing companies, announced last year that it would launch a racial equity audit. One of the company’s investors — American Baptist Home Mission Societies — pushed for the audit, Bloomberg News reported.

Fund manager BlackRock and Citigroup announced similar moves.

Michael A. Bynum