Amazon says it will undergo an hourly workforce racial equity audit

Amazon is urging shareholders not to support a proposal requiring it to seek racial equity throughout its workforce.

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Amazon is hiring a law firm to examine how the company’s policies affect racial equity in its hourly workforce, the company said in a statement to shareholders Thursday. The audit will be led by former US Attorney General Loretta Lynch and will become public once completed.

“The focus of the audit will be to assess any racially disparate impacts on our nearly one million American hourly employees resulting from our policies, programs and practices,” the company said in its statement.

The announcement comes ahead of Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting on May 25, when votes will be held on several proposals to overhaul the company’s practices. The proposals include a call for a racial equity audit, which Amazon advises against because it has already taken steps to undergo one. The proposed audit would be broader than the one Amazon organizes, covering salaried staff in addition to the company’s hourly workforce.

Amazon has been the target of racial and gender discrimination lawsuits filed by current and former employees at the corporate and hourly levels. Charlotte Newman, a corporate employee who has sued the company for gender and racial discrimination, criticized the company’s audit plan in a tweet Monday that noted that the review would ignore employees like her. “It’s a major exclusion,” she said.

Amazon said the audit will cover most of its workforce. This will not include hourly workers at Whole Foods Market or PillPack.

Another shareholder proposal up for a vote at the May meeting calls for a review to determine whether Amazon’s health and safety policies disproportionately cause injuries among women and people of color. Yet another proposal calls for changing how Amazon reports the median salary of women and people of color. Amazon advised shareholders to vote against these proposals.

Michael A. Bynum