Jeff Bezos is being sued by a former housekeeper who claims she was subjected to racial discrimination and forced to regularly climb out of a laundry room window to go to the toilet as she wasn’t allowed to enter the Amazon billionaire’s house except on “cleaning assignment”.
Mercedes Wedaa, who worked cleaning Bezos’s Seattle mansion for three years, claimed in a lawsuit filed in Seattle state court that she and other hispanic cleaning staff were treated differently to white staff.
She claims that Bezos’s household manager “became aggressive and abusive” towards her while being “respectful and polite” towards white groundskeepers.
A lawyer for Bezos denied all the claims and said the suggestion that Wedaa was discriminated against based on her race was “absurd”.
Wedaa, who first started working at Bezos’s home in 2019, said she was regularly required to work for 10 to 14 hours without lunch or rest breaks if Bezos and his family were “in residence”.
The lawsuit claims that there was no dedicated break room or rest area and that Wedaa and other household staff would regularly eat in the laundry room.
Wedaa also claims that she was not allowed to enter Bezos’s house “unless to perform a cleaning assignment”, which made going to the toilet difficult and resulted in health issues.
“For about 18 months, in order to use a bathroom, [the] plaintiff and other housekeepers were forced to climb out of the laundry room window to the outside. Then run along the path to the mechanical room, through the mechanical room and downstairs to a bathroom,” the lawsuit, first reported by the Seattle-based blog Geekwire, states.
The lawsuit claims that because Wedaa and other housekeepers “had to spend large parts of their day unable to use the toilet”, they frequently developed urinary tract infections.
Wedaa is suing Bezos personally, along with two companies – Zefram and Northwestern – that manage his interests and properties.
Harry Korrell, a lawyer for Bezos, said: “We have investigated the claims, and they lack merit. Wedaa made over six figures annually and was the lead housekeeper.
“She was responsible for her own break and meal times, and there were several bathrooms and breakrooms available to her and other staff. The evidence will show that Wedaa was terminated for performance reasons.
“She initially demanded over $9m, and when the company refused, she decided to file this suit. Given their backgrounds, the suggestion that Bezos, Sanchez, or Northwestern LLC discriminated against Wedaa based on her race or national origin is absurd.”