Ex-Exec Filled A Lawsuit Against Amazon, Also Saying She Was Forced to Ignore Copyright Rules 

In this post:

  • An ex-employee has filed a lawsuit against Amazon, claiming she was mistreated during and after pregnancy.
  • The complaint mentions that she was asked to ignore copyright rules to satisfy Amazon’s intentions of competing with market rivals in AI.
  • She accused the tech giant of retaliation charges along with copyright infringement and many others.

A lawsuit by an ex-employee alleges Amazon was so desperate to be at the level of competition in generative artificial intelligence that it was eager to breach copyright rules. The allegations are made in a complaint accusing the company of relegating and then firing an ex-AI researcher after they discovered her pregnancy.

Copyright violation, everyone is doing it, so should we?

Last week, Dr. Viviane Ghaderi filed the lawsuit in a Los Angeles court. She is an AI researcher and says that she has worked at Amazon on the teams of LLM and Alexa and that she had a growing career at the company with a number of promotions. Ghaderi also claims that after giving birth and returning to work, she was unexpectedly demoted and given the boot. Among other claims, she is also accusing the company of wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

Ghaderi has also accused Amazon of scapegoating her because of the reason that she complained that Amazon was breaching its own rules against copyright violations when it came to AI research, along with discrimination and sexism.

Median employee tenure at top three tech companies. Source: Visualcapitalist.

According to the complaint filed by Dr. Ghaderi, she returned to work on a large language model project after giving birth back in January 2023. Flagging the breaches of Amazon’s internal copyright policies and forwarding them to the in-house legal team was part of her job. As per filing claims, Andre Styskin, her team director, challenged her to understand why the search quality of Alexa was not meeting Amazon’s goals.

The case filing shows she met a legal department representative to explain her concerns and the problem she was facing. According to filing submissions, 

“direction she had received from upper management, which advised her to violate the direction from legal.” 

The complaint also says that Styskin rejected her anxieties, and asked her to ignore the rules of copyrights to improve the search results, and also referred to their rivals, saying,

“Everyone else”—i.e., other AI companies— “is doing it.”

Source: Regmedia.

Dr. Ghaderi joined Amazon for the second time in 2021

It is also mentioned in the complaint that Dr. Ghaderi joined Amazon as a program manager in 2018 and received good appraisals. She even left the company to join a startup in February 2021. She was hired by Amazon due to her good relationships with colleagues and her good performance.

Layoffs at Amazon during 2022 when Dr. Vivaine Ghaderi was employed at the company. Source: Statista.

Amazon put together a new science team in September 2022 for compliance and data quality in Alexa. Ghaderi was promoted to another level and reported to director Danel Marcu. She informed him about her pregnancy, and he asked her to report to Mr. Mahesh Krishnakumar. She claimed that Krishnakumar pressured her to delay her maternity, to which she complied, until the point when she was forced to go under an emergency C-section on November 15, 2022. 

Dr. Ghaderi is also suing Amazon for a retaliation charge because she claimed that after her return to work in January 2023, she was informed by her colleagues that Krishnakumar contributed very little during her absence, and there is a backlog of work. Krishnakumar is said to be making “harassing and discriminatory comments,” such as “You should just enjoy being a new mother,” “Take it easy, I have young daughters, so I know it’s hard to be a woman with a newborn,” or “You should spend time with your daughter.”

A jury trial has also been demanded by her lawyers, and they have named Amazon.com Services, Andrey Stskin, and Mahesh Krishnakumar as defendants, along with some other unnamed ones. A case management conference has also been called for August 14.

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