Transgender worker at Amazon ‘harassed’ over pregnancy: suit

A transgender man who got pregnant while working at an Amazon distribution center in New…

Transgender worker at Amazon ‘harassed’ over pregnancy: suit

A transgender man who got pregnant while working at an Amazon distribution center in New Jersey is suing the retail giant, alleging discrimination.

Shaun Simmons said he was relentlessly harassed and retaliated against after disclosing his pregnancy to higher-ups, including being given tasks involving heavy lifting and being placed on unpaid leave until the baby was born, according to a complaint moved to New Jersey federal court on Monday.

The New Jersey Law Journal called the lawsuit “a rarely seen combination, with claims of pregnancy discrimination and gender-identity discrimination by a plaintiff identifying as male.”

A spokesperson for Amazon declined to comment on the allegations in a statement sent to McClatchy News but said the company “does not tolerate discriminatory harassment of any kind.”

“We have been, and continue to be, committed to accommodating all employees to perform their duties in a safe and inclusive workplace,” the statement read.

Amazon’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kevin Costello of Costello & Mains LLC, who is representing Simmons, declined to comment, other than saying, “We think it’s a very important issue and we look forward to the court process.”

The lawsuit was originally filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey on Sept. 4 and names Services Inc. as well as two managers — Mike Menno and Tyler Houpt — as defendants, according to court filings. Amazon removed the case to federal court on Oct. 5.

According to the complaint, Simmons started working for the e-commerce giant in 2015 and was moved to an Amazon fulfillment center in May 2019.

He told his bosses in June of that year that he was pregnant — but they didn’t keep that information confidential, the lawsuit states.

A coworker allegedly congratulated Simmons on his pregnancy the day after he told Menno and Houpt, according to the complaint. Another person allegedly asked, “Aren’t you pregnant?” when Simmons entered the men’s bathroom.

Menno and Houpt then began criticizing him on his work performance, the lawsuit states. But each time he complained, Simmons’ attorneys said he was put on paid leave. Simmons was later assigned to a “non-management, non-supervisory position” that involved lifting heavy items such as dog food, according to the complaint.

Simmons brought in documentation from his doctors that he needed certain accommodations because of his pregnancy, but his request was denied, the lawsuit states.

Instead, his attorneys said Simmons was told he “would be placed on unpaid leave pending the birth of his child.”

The lawsuit makes several claims under New Jersey state law, including harassment based on gender identity and harassment and discrimination based on pregnancy. Simmons also alleges Amazon failed to reasonably accommodate him.

He is seeking reinstatement, back and front pay, lost wages and benefits, and compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorneys’ fees.

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Hayley Fowler is a reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking and real-time news across North and South Carolina. She has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York City before joining the Observer in 2019.