Since the first immigrants began arriving in the U.S., the country has been regarded as a land of opportunity where individuals of diverse ethnicities, races and religions are widely accepted and afforded equal opportunities and rights. Unfortunately racism, bigotry and sexism still exist in the U.S. and impact both the personal and professional lives of many individuals of minority populations.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.” Despite this and other laws protecting employees from acts of discrimination and harassment in the workplace, each year thousands of U.S. workers file claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
A recent EEOC case was filed on behalf of several hotel employees who allege they were subjected to egregious acts of racism after ownership of the hotels at which they worked changed hands. Lawrence Whitten purchased the hotels and immediately laid out new policies with regard to the treatment of Spanish-speaking and black employees.
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs cite numerous examples of racist and discriminatory acts that were ordered by Mr. Whitten and enforced by management at the four hotels that are named as defendants in the lawsuit. For example, Spanish-speaking employees were prohibited from speaking Spanish at least one of the hotels and at least one Spanish-speaking employee was removed from his front-desk position because “of his accent.” Additionally, Whitten openly used and referred to employees using racist and highly-offensive epithets.
The lawsuit also describes how Whitten provided many Spanish-speaking and black employees with new names that he considered to be more Caucasian sounding. These blatant acts of discrimination drove many of the targeted employees to resign. Upon doing so, Whitten is accused of paying several their last paychecks “in the form of rolled pennies.”
Not only are acts of workplace discrimination and harassment like the ones detailed above racist, they are also illegal. Individuals who have been subjected to comments, behaviors or acts at work that created a hostile work environment and were discriminatory in nature would be wise to seek legal advice.
Source: Courthouse News Service, “The Worst Boss in the World?,” Victoria Prieskop, Oct. 2, 2014