California software engineer claims Amazon manager told her jobs might not work for 'females'

Ethan Baron, The Mercury News on

Published in Business News

Rajakumari Chouta of Fremont got the news this past November that she would be laid off in January from her software developer job at Amazon in San Francisco, so she began applying for new positions internally.

That’s when, Chouta claims in her newly filed lawsuit against the e-commerce giant, she ran into a wall of sexism, saw jobs go to men and ended up out of the company.

Chouta, who is married, approached a hiring manager about transferring to a systems-development engineering position, the lawsuit said. The manager told her women might not be able to perform well because the job involved frequent on-call duties, and was not for those needing to take care of children and a husband and perform household chores, the lawsuit in San Francisco County Superior Court claimed.

She did not hear back for several weeks about the job, so she contacted the manager — who is not named as a defendant in her lawsuit — and he told her the position had gone to a man, according to the lawsuit. But the manager said he had two similar positions open on his team and suggested Chouta could interview for those, the lawsuit said.

After a mid-December interview for another systems-development job, the manager told her the feedback about her was largely positive, the lawsuit said. But, he added, the work involved tedious tasks that “might not be suitable for the female candidates,” the lawsuit claimed.

The manager also made the “remarkable request” that Chouta check with her family and husband and get permission, then let him know the next morning if she was “willing to contribute like male candidates and transfer to Seattle using her own expenses,” the lawsuit alleged.

Offended but still needing a job, Chouta sent the manager a message saying she had spoken with her family and wanted the position. The manager immediately responded, telling her the transfer might not finish before she was laid off, then later said the job was on hold because of a hiring freeze, the lawsuit said. About two weeks later, Chouta found out the position had been filled by a man, the lawsuit claimed.


Chouta complained to the company about the manager’s “sexist statements,” according to the lawsuit, which does not mention whether the company responded to the purported complaint.

Amazon said in a statement Wednesday that it does not tolerate harassment or discrimination in its workplaces. “Anytime an incident is reported, we investigate it thoroughly and take appropriate action against anyone who is found to have violated our policies,” the company said. Amazon did not answer questions about Chouta’s purported complaint and whether the manager was currently employed at the company.

Amazon’s most recent statement, in June, on the diversity of its office workforce said it was about 70% men and 30% women. Last year, the company said it was “committed to inspiring the next generation of women in tech” and that to support women inside and outside Amazon, it raises awareness “of the biases that women often face in the workplace and broader society.”

Chouta never received offers for other jobs she applied for, including in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, the lawsuit said. On January 8, she was out the door.

Her lawsuit accuses Amazon of failing to prevent discrimination against her. She is seeking unspecified damages.


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