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Amazon drivers say background checks discriminate against minorities

A group of black and Latino former drivers for Amazon have filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court, alleging that Amazon discriminated against them when it fired them based on a background check policy.

The drivers claim that in 2016, Amazon began implementing an overly strict background check policy. This new policy caught old and minor offenses and did not take into account a driver’s current job performance. It then fired many drivers, who were disproportionately black and Latino, based on the results of those background checks.

“Amazon’s decision to fire them had nothing to do with their ability to perform the job, but was based solely on an overly strict background check policy,” said Oren Sellstrom of Lawyers for Civil Rights, who is representing the drivers along with an attorney from Fair Work, in a statement. “That is not only poor business practice, it also violates federal and state anti-discrimination laws.”

The six plaintiffs all worked for Amazon in 2016, generally for a period of months, before they were fired based on the results of background checks.

Matthew Soler, a Latino, had been delivering packages for Amazon for 60 to 70 hours a week when he was terminated for an old charge of driving after a license suspension. His license was reinstated more than four years before he was fired from Amazon, according to his lawyers.

Amazon spokesman Ernesto Apreza said in an email that the company has a longstanding practice of not commenting on pending litigation. “That said, safety and customer trust are our top priorities, which is why we have always required delivery service providers to conduct comprehensive background checks for their employee drivers,” Apreza said.

“The background check process is focused on job related criminal and motor vehicle convictions and does not consider race, gender, ethnicity, religion or other protected characteristics.”

The drivers hope a judge will grant their suit class-action status.

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