From Racial Slurs to Retaliation: The Dark Saga of Discrimination at Whitten Inn
After an extensive legal dispute lasting several years, Roark-Whitten Hospitality 2, LP (previously known as Whitten Inn) and its successor, SGI, LLC, have come to a resolution in the form of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The lawsuit accused the entities of race and national origin harassment, resulting in compensatory damages amounting to $87,000 being awarded to the individuals affected by the discrimination.
The allegations against the former owner of the hotel, Larry Whitten, included discriminatory practices and a hostile work environment. The EEOC claimed that Whitten subjected Hispanic employees to disparaging treatment, racial slurs, and enforced a discriminatory policy of anglicizing their names. Additionally, a no-Spanish policy was implemented at the hotel, which added to the racially tense environment.
Following Whitten’s acquisition of the hotel, several employees were either terminated or compelled to quit within a fortnight. This was allegedly due to their refusal to anglicize their names or cease speaking Spanish with customers who conversed in the same language. These incidents were considered retaliation for opposing the discriminatory practices in place.
The complex legal proceedings, which even involved an appeal to the Tenth Circuit, ultimately resulted in a mutually agreed settlement. The former owner and one of the successor entities were required to pay the aggrieved individuals $65,000 and $22,000 respectively, as compensation for the harm inflicted by the discriminatory practices.
The EEOC officials provided comments on the case, highlighting the offensive slurs used by Whitten and the attempts to anglicize the work environment. Such actions were seen as creating a hostile work environment, alienating the Hispanic workforce.
They emphasized that employees should feel secure in opposing discriminatory practices without fear of retaliation, pointing out that retaliation charges make up approximately 58% of the EEOC’s charges.
The consequences of workplace discrimination are clearly demonstrated through this case, highlighting the urgent need to create a workplace that values respect and inclusivity. It is imperative to ensure that every individual feels safe and welcome in their professional environment. The hefty settlement underscores the legal consequences for such actions. Businesses must always remember the crucial significance of treating all employees fairly, irrespective of their race or national origin. It is essential to create an environment where they feel safe to voice their opposition against discriminatory practices without any fear of retaliation.
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