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Amazon Faces Suit Over $10k Offer Made Exclusively to ‘Black, Latinx, and Native American Entrepreneurs’

Amazon executive chairman Jeff Bezos (Getty Images)
• September 1, 2022 10:00 am

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A white woman is suing e-commerce giant Amazon over a program that gives "Black, Latinx, and Native American entrepreneurs" a $10,000 stipend to launch their own delivery startups, an offer the lawsuit calls "patently unlawful racial discrimination."

The online retailer delivers packages by contracting with local "delivery service partners"—outside businesses that drive parcels from point A to point B. To "help reduce the barriers to entry for Black, Latinx, and Native American entrepreneurs," Amazon’s website states, the company has created a "diversity grant" that offers minorities $10,000 to launch their own businesses and become delivery service partners.

"This means that businesses owned by blacks, Latinos, or Native Americans receive a $10,000 stipend from Amazon to become delivery service partners, while whites and Asian Americans who wish to become delivery service partners receive no such stipend and must foot the entire bill for their startup costs," the lawsuit says.

The plaintiff, Crystal Bolduc, is asking a Texas district court to end the program and award damages to everyone "who has suffered unlawful racial discrimination on account of" it. Filed on July 20 by some of the most prominent appellate lawyers in the country, the class-action lawsuit argues that the stipends violate the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits racial discrimination in contracting. Bolduc, the lawsuit says, "seeks to represent a class of all past and future applicants" to the program "who have been subjected to racial discrimination."

Amazon also runs a "Black Business Accelerator" that gives black-owned businesses a "$500 credit to assist with start-up and operational costs." That initiative, while not the subject of the class action, is nonetheless another case of "unlawful racial discrimination" at the online retailer, Bolduc’s lawsuit says.

The programs are just two examples of the race-conscious policies that have proliferated in corporations and nonprofits across the United States, often in violation of federal law. Google sets strict caps on the number of white and Asian students universities can nominate for a prestigious graduate fellowship; Pfizer’s "Breakthrough Fellowship" does not allow white or Asian applicants at all. At Women Against Abuse, one of the largest domestic violence nonprofits in the United States, "BIPOC" employees received a larger stipend than white ones to sit on a "racial equity audit task force"—a policy that is now the subject of a pending discrimination complaint.

Companies are not attempting to hide these seemingly discriminatory programs. Google and Pfizer both advertise their fellowships on company websites, even as civil rights lawyers say that they violate federal law.

Amazon is similarly brazen. The lawsuit includes several screenshots from the retail giant’s website, which promotes the race-based stipend scheme under the heading, "Commitment to Diversity." On another web page titled "Our partners," the company touts its Black Business Accelerator and says the program has the support of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

This is the second time in a year that Amazon has been hit with a reverse discrimination complaint. Last October, Jonathan Correll filed a class action lawsuit against the online retailer alleging that it discriminates against white sellers by giving preferential advertising to minority businesses. Amazon has asked a California district court to dismiss the lawsuit, in part on the grounds that Correll has never sold anything on Amazon and thus lacks the standing to challenge its advertising policies.

Bolduc may have a stronger case. Since she "cannot apply to become an Amazon delivery service partner without subjecting herself to racial discrimination," her lawsuit argues, Bolduc is "suffering injury" on account of the stipend program and therefore has the standing to challenge it.

Bolduc’s lawyers are a who’s who of the conservative legal movement. Her lawsuit was filed by Gene Hamilton, the general counsel of America First Legal who oversaw the end of DACA during the Trump administration; Jonathan Mitchell, the architect of the Texas "heartbeat" law that effectively circumvented Roe v. Wade; and Adam Mortara, the lead trial lawyer for the plaintiffs in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, a pending Supreme Court case that could outlaw affirmative action.

"Ms. Bolduc will not apply to become an Amazon delivery service partner until Amazon eliminates this racially discriminatory policy," the lawsuit says, "either by extending its $10,000 benefit to whites and Asians or curtailing or eliminating the benefit entirely."