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Transgender Man Files Pregnancy Discrimination Suit Against Amazon

By Douglas Lipsky

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, more than three-quarters of transgender Americans claim they have experienced workplace discrimination. Now, a transgender man in New Jersey is suing tech giant Amazon for pregnancy discrimination

While the outcome of this rare discrimination claim is uncertain at this juncture, it is important to remember that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals have powerful legal recourse under local, state, and federal law. The best way to protect these rights is to rely on an experienced employment discrimination attorney.

The Backdrop

Shaun Simmons, described alternately as transgender or nonbinary, worked at an Amazon fulfillment center in Princeton, New Jersey where he was allegedly harassed and denied a promotion because he was pregnant. Simmons initially filed the suit in Mercer County Circuit Court, but the case was moved to the U.S. District Court in New Jersey in October after a request from Amazon’s counsel. 

According to the complaint, Mr. Simmons told his supervisors about his pregnancy in June 2019, and word spread throughout the warehouse where other workers began harassing him in the restroom and elsewhere. Simmons also claims that his supervisors began criticizing his performance unfairly in an attempt to get him demoted (the two supervisors are named as co-defendants in the suit). 

Simmons was placed on leave after complaining to human resources. When he returned to work, he was demoted to a position that required him to lift large bags of dog food and other heavy items. After telling HR that lifting such weight caused pain in his stomach, Simmons was placed on leave and told to request an accommodation, which was denied. 

Simons claims he was placed on unpaid leave pending the birth of the child and also alleges that an offer of a promotion at a different Amazon location was withdrawn. He is alleging harassment based on gender and on pregnancy under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, as well as pregnancy discrimination, failure to accommodate, and workplace retaliation, and the suit seeks reinstatement, back pay, and compensatory and punitive damages.

Although Amazon has a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, and its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, received the organization’s Equality Award in 2017, this is not the first transgender discrimination claim to be filed against the tech giant. In 2019, the company settled a harassment claim by a transgender worker at an Amazon facility in Kentucky.

The Takeaway

This case is unique and will likely test the boundaries of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity because Simmons’ complaint incorporates claims of both anti-transgender bias and pregnancy discrimination. Given that employment discrimination plaintiffs face an uphill battle in federal court, it takes a skilled employment law attorney to protect the workplace rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.