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A transgender man in New Jersey is suing Amazon, claiming he was harassed and denied a promotion after telling his boss he was pregnant.
Shaun Simmons, an employee at the Princeton fulfillment center, says he told his supervisor, Mike Menno, about his pregnancy in June 2019. Menno then allegedly told another supervisor, Tyler Houpt, and news of Simmons’s medical condition began to spread among employees, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this week.
Soon after other employees learned of the pregnancy, Simmons says he was harassed by other employees, and even confronted by a fellow worker in the men’s restroom, reports NBC News.
Simmons claims in his lawsuit that Menno and Houpt began criticizing his performance on the job in an effort to get him demoted. He complained to human resources, and was placed on paid leave. When he returned from leave, he claims his supervisors retaliated against him by demoting him to the position of item picker, which required him to lift “large bags of dog food and other heavy items.”
Simmons told human resources that lifting such weight in his condition was causing abdominal pain. He was again placed on paid leave in July and told to provide a doctor’s note for any pregnancy-related accommodations. But when he provided the documentation, his supervisors denied him special accommodations for his medical condition.
“Amazon has a policy and practice of discriminating against individuals because of their disability and/or pregnancy, failing to provide employees with accommodations, and retaliating against employees for requesting and accommodation, which is demonstrated by the dozens of lawsuits filed against Amazon in the past six years in the state of New Jersey alone,” the lawsuit states.
The shipping giant has previously been accused of discrimination by women in multiple states who claim they were fired after becoming pregnant, as reported by CNET, a publication focusing on technology and electronics.
Simmons claims an offer of a promotion at another warehouse was rescinded last September, and he was placed on unpaid leave that same month until he gave birth to his child.
In addition to being reinstated in his old position, Simmons is seeking back pay, the restoration of lost benefits, as well as payment for legal fees and other damages. He claims his rights he is the victim of both anti-transgender discrimination and discrimination based on pregnancy status, both of which are prohibited under New Jersey civil rights law.
The case was originally filed in Mercer County Superior Court but has since been moved to U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, at the request of lawyers representing Amazon.
Greg Nevins, a senior counsel for Lambda Legal and the director of its Employment Fairness Project, said it’s unclear why the case was moved to federal court, since Simmons didn’t claim discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled applies to instances of anti-trans discrimination. But Nevins also noted that federal courts have generally been more hostile to workers than state-level courts.
In a statement to NBC News, Amazon declined to comment on the case but insisted that it does not tolerate discrimination or harassment “of any kind.”
“We have been, and continue to be, committed to accommodating all employees to perform their duties in a safe and inclusive workplace,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.
This isn’t the first time that the company has been accused of overlooking anti-trans harassment. In 2019, Amazon settled out of court with a transgender woman who claims she and her husband were routinely discriminated against, harassed, and threatened with violence while working at an Amazon facility in Kentucky. The couple also filed a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which found that they had a right to pursue the lawsuit against Amazon.
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