FILE - In this June 16, 2014, file photo, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos walks onstage for the launch of the new Amazon Fire Phone, in Seattle. Bezos offered a glimpse of his vision for the future during an interview on May 31, 2016, at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

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Amazon Accused Of Discrimination In Firing Of Boston-Area Drivers

October 12, 2016

Updated with a statement from Amazon at 6:15 p.m.

A civil rights advocacy group has accused of discrimination against black and latino drivers that were fired from delivery contractors after Amazon tightened its background-check requirements.

The nonprofit Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice says in a letter to the technology giant that "dozens of drivers, primarily black and Latino individuals" were fired earlier this month after Amazon instituted stricter background-check requirements with its delivery contractors. The advocacy group says 30 to 40 drivers were fired from one local contractor based on the new background-check requirements, rather than job performance.

"Specifically, we understand that Amazon has recently imposed policies that bar qualified individuals from being employed as Amazon drivers based not on job performance, but rather based solely on past contact with the criminal justice system," the letter says.

That violates the Civil Rights Act, since criminal background checks can disproportionately affect black and latino workers, the group says.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company requires comprehensive background checks in order to make safety and customer trust top priorities.

"Our supplier code of conduct stipulates that our suppliers must not discriminate," the Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement. "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."

Amazon is reportedly looking to expand its delivery operation in a bid to compete with FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service.

The Lawyer's Committee has asked for a meeting with Amazon executives, as well as for a written explanation of the company's background check policies, and any changes that may have been recently made to them, and information on how those policies affect people of color.

In April, Bloomberg reported Amazon's same-day delivery service delivered to all of Boston except for Roxbury, a predominantly black neighborhood. Days later, the company said it would begin same-day delivery in the neighborhood.

This month, three drivers sued Amazon over their status as independent contractors, seeking the protections that come with being treated as company employees.

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