Hotel owner discriminated against Hispanic workers: lawsuit

Hotel owner discriminated against Hispanic workers: lawsuit

An owner of a hotel based in Taos, New Mexico, called Hispanic workers racial slurs and didn't allow them to use their real names at work, a lawsuit says.

An owner of a hotel based in Taos, New Mexico, called Hispanic workers racial slurs and didn’t allow them to use their real names at work, a lawsuit says.

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The owner of a hotel banned workers from speaking Spanish and didn’t allow them to use their real names on the job, according to a lawsuit filed in New Mexico.

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A Taos hotel, which was formerly known as Whitten Inn, now must pay $87,000 as part of a settlement, according to a June 27 news release from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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The commission filed a lawsuit against the hotel company in 2014 after multiple workers said they were discriminated against by the hotel’s owner, according to the complaint. At the time of the lawsuit’s filing, the hotel had locations in Taos, New Mexico; Abilene, Texas; and Santee, South Carolina, according to the complaint.

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During a 2009 meeting at the hotel in Taos, which is about 130 miles northeast of Albuquerque, the owner announced a rule that employees were not allowed to speak Spanish around him because he did not understand it, the complaint says.

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He also set different standards for Hispanic employees and white employees, the complaint says. Hispanic employees were required to complete their duties within “unreasonably short time periods” while white employees were not required to do so, the complaint says.

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The owner required Hispanic employees to park farther away from the hotel entrance while allowing a white housekeeper to park in a more convenient space, the complaint says.

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A lawyer representing the hotel did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News on June 28. A message left for the hotel’s supervisor was not returned.

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In August 2009, the owner told a front desk agent that he had to start working in maintenance and housekeeping because of his accent, the complaint says.

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That same month, he told a worker named Marcos to use the name “Mark” at work, the complaint says.

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In another instance, a worker named Roberto “was told to go by ‘Robert’ because his name sounded ‘too ethnic,’” the complaint says.

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The hotel owner also called Hispanic and Black employees racial slurs and paid several Hispanic workers their final checks in rolled pennies, the complaint says.

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An employee handbook that was put in effect at every Whitten Inn hotel told employees that their hair needed to be “styled” and that they could not use “braids, extensions and wigs,” the complaint says.

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The money paid by the hotel in the settlement will go to the people who were affected by the discrimination, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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Many employees of the hotel were forced to quit or fired after complaining about their treatment, refusing to use “anglicized” names or continuing to speak Spanish, the release says.

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“Attempts to anglicize the work environment by not allowing Hispanic workers to use their given names or speak in their native tongue with Spanish-speaking customers alienated the Hispanic workforce and created a hostile work environment,” Christina Vigil Frazier, the commission’s assistant regional attorney, said in a statement.

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Madeleine List is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter. She has reported for the Cape Cod Times and the Providence Journal.

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