SEATTLE — A woman who worked as a manager for an Amazon facility in Everett is one of five former and current employees who sued the company Wednesday, claiming they were subject to gender and racial discrimination, as well as retaliation for reporting it.
Diana Cuervo, 40, alleges that her supervisor, Christopher Stoia, made derogatory comments about her accent and Latin American heritage on an almost daily basis when she managed delivery operations for an Amazon robotics station in what is known as the company’s DWS5 facility.
Stoia reportedly made remarks such as “How is a Latin like you working here?” and “Latins suck,” and then warned her she would be fired if she complained to human resources staff about his behavior, says the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Cuervo was born in Colombia. She moved from her home in Brooklyn, New York, to take a job across the country in Everett. She started at a wage of $75,000 per year.
In February, Stoia discouraged her from reporting a gas leak in the building to anyone else, saying, “It will make me look bad,” according to the lawsuit.
Stoia, 36, of Snohomish, could not be reached for comment Thursday, and a LinkedIn account for an Amazon worker by that name from the “Greater Seattle Area” appeared to have been deleted.
The company disputes the claims made by Cuervo and plaintiffs in the four other lawsuits.
“We are conducting thorough investigations for each of these unrelated cases, as we do with any reported incidents, and we have found no evidence to support the allegations,” Amazon spokesperson Brad Glasser said in a written statement.
“Amazon works hard to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture,” Glasser said. “We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment in any form, and employees are encouraged to raise concerns to any member of management or through an anonymous ethics hotline with no risk of retaliation.”
According to Cuervo’s civil complaint, “Stoia’s prejudiced tirades against Ms. Cuervo nearly always occurred in rooms without cameras.”
Pearl Thomas, 64, an Amazon human resources employee who is Black, claimed she was placed in a performance improvement program weeks after she reported that her manager used a racial slur, according to one of the lawsuits.
Thomas, too, filed her lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Cuervo alleges in her lawsuit that she worked with many white men who were ranked higher and paid more than her, despite the fact that she had more experience and education, including a master’s degree.
According to the lawsuit, Stoia constantly questioned her qualifications for the job and said she was only hired because “Amazon needs to checkmark the diversity box.”
“HR doesn’t work for you, it works for me and for Amazon,” he allegedly told her on multiple occasions to dissuade her from complaining.
She went to human resources nonetheless, but the company failed to take action to stop the harassment, the lawsuit says. A senior HR assistant met with her to discuss her concerns — and allowed Stoia to attend the meeting, too, according to the lawsuit.
The company said it has no record of discrimination concerns being raised during the meetings between Cuervo, her supervisor and the human resources specialist. Those meetings were instead meant to discuss performance issues, according to Amazon.
Cuervo alleges she was fired suddenly, without a clear explanation, the day after she took her concerns about the gas leak to higher management.
When she pressed Stoia and a senior regional manager for a reason, she was told her firing had something to do with a Feb. 14 incident when she allowed a truck driver to take an empty trailer from the station, even though she was later told the driver was assigned to a different building nearby. At the time, she was the only manager at the station and had “stepped up to perform tasks beyond her normal duties” with guidance from a higher-ranking employee, the lawsuit says.
The company, aware that she was seeking legal representation over her termination, then demanded that she repay some $20,000, including part of an unaccrued sign-on bonus and relocation costs that the company paid her when she started in August 2020, according to the lawsuit.
Amazon says Cuervo was fired because she violated safety rules by allowing two people who weren’t employees into a secure building, and also involving herself in a potentially dangerous process of docking and releasing trailers, even though supervisors told her not to.
An energy company once investigated reports of a gas smell at the Everett facility where Cuervo worked and found no evidence of a leak, the company said.
Cuervo and plaintiffs in the other four lawsuits are represented by New York firm Wigdor Law.