The Shopping May Be Prime, but These Former Employees Say the Compensation and Equality Were Secondary

Julie Clopper /
Julie Clopper /

On November 20th, the lawsuit we all knew would be coming eventually showed up. Three Amazon employees filed suit for discrimination as well as accusing the company of reprisals following their actions to raise issue with discrimination and pay inequality. Caroline Wilmuth, Katherine Schomer, and Erin Combs are employed in different roles within Amazon’s corporate research and strategy division.

In their complaint, these ladies allege that men are being given high-ranking titles and higher salaries for performing the same job as these ladies. Further, they allege that Amazon “regularly fails” when it comes to promoting women. Ultimately this ends up “resulting in the performance of similar work as men in higher job codes for less compensation.”

According to their suit, they brought these complaints to their managers as well as Amazon’s HR department in late 2021. This did trigger an investigation as to whether or not the ladies were being miscategorized simply due to being women. Per Schomer, she was assigned to a four-person department along with two other women and one man. Despite doing the same job, she alleged the man was being paid 150% of what she and the other ladies were making.

Following the complaints from the trio, Amazon fired back in short order. Suddenly their job scope had been greatly reduced, and their direct reporting structure was suddenly shifted to another team. Leading this team was a male they had previously filed gender discrimination claims against.

In a statement, Wilmuth said, “When I discovered that I was being paid significantly less than men on my team, it stunned and devastated me. Amazon then made it worse after I complained by taking away the team that I founded and built from scratch — and demoting me to a position that had much less career advancement opportunity.”

Back in March, Wilmuth’s allegations were investigated. During that investigation, one of her teammates confirmed that the project was moved as retaliation against the trio.

Amazon’s spokesman had little to offer besides canned remarks about Amazon not believing them and fostering an inclusive environment. For years now, Amazon has come under fire for its business practices. From inhumane time clock laws to illegal firings to poorly designed policies on racial, sexual, and religious discrimination. While most of these cases have been dismissed or settled quietly, the suit these three are bringing looks to fare a different fate.

The mainstream and governmental oversight this case is going to receive will ensure that not only will Amazon be unable to settle the case out of court, but it will also have far-reaching implications. Forcing them to address these problems could bring their record into federal records. Given the high number of contracts the company currently has with the federal government, this isn’t a position they’d like to be in.

Getting women to band together and file suit against someone as large as Amazon is an incredible achievement. For years the mega-corporation has been treated as if they were untouchable, with contracts that absolve them of nearly all responsibility for anything going wrong, they are a legal team’s wet dream brought to life. With a massive cash reserve and a stock valuation that rivals most countries’ GDP, their pockets are more than deep enough to ensure these ladies everything they ask for.

While Amazon’s lawyers are denying any wrongdoing, this is one of the few times where they are seemingly caught red-handed. With so much documentation, testimony, and proof of hierarchy behind them, these have all the evidence necessary to make a tremendous and impactful wave. Denying these ladies the Prime pay, benefits, and title their job scope demanded was a horrible decision, and now the return policy is sure to be swift and hard-hitting.