Black employees at BLT Prime, a steakhouse in the luxury Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., filed a civil complaint Wednesday accusing the Trump Organization and the managing director of the hotel of racial discrimination.
Irving Smith Jr., who still works at BLT, and Dominique Hill and JaNette Sturdivant, both former employees of the steak house, are accusing the Trump Organization and the hotel managing director Mickael Damelincourt of routinely giving black employees shifts where they would earn less, as well as subjecting black employees to discriminatory behavior by other staff and guests, the Washington Post reports.
For example, Hill told the Post, although Hill was the first bartender the restaurant hired last summer before the hotel opened, he was basically given only lunch shifts.
“Some days, I would just stand there all day long and have no customers,” he said, only making some $300 to $400 for a 30- to 35-hour workweek, the Post notes.
Smith, who is a server at the steak house, said that very early on he was demoted to assistant server and was very rarely given prime shifts, during which earnings would average between $600 and $1,500. He claimed that those spots were given to the newly hired white and Latino employees instead.
“They started hiring all these people, and instead of putting them on day shifts, they was giving them night shifts and keeping us on day shift. Next thing I know, within the month all the black people were on the day shift,” Hill told the Post.
Sturdivant, a 34-year-old black woman who worked as a server, claimed that when she joined the BLT team, she was complimented for having light skin.
“When I first came on board … the server manager said it’s good to see someone with Milano complexion here,” she said. Still, she said, she was not given any of the more lucrative night shifts, either.
Hill claimed that when the hotel opened, some 15 or more black employees worked at BLT. Currently, he claims, there are only about four who remain.
The plaintiffs are seeking $14.5 million in damages, the report notes.
According to the Post, the Trump Organization released a statement calling the accusations “utterly baseless,” especially since the plaintiffs were not hired by the hotel.
“Rather, the plaintiffs worked for a third-party restaurant company that is solely responsible for the direction, supervision and management of its own employees. In short, this lawsuit appears to be nothing more than a desperate, politically motivated publicity stunt. We look forward to litigating this matter,” Amanda Miller, a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, said in a statement.
The company that operates BLT, ESquared Hospitality, “wholeheartedly” refuted the allegations, saying that the employees “did not previously voice or file complaints through any of the proper channels.”
“Had they done so, BLT Prime would have immediately taken the alleged complaints seriously and investigated them to the fullest extent and would have taken appropriate action where warranted,” ESquared insisted.
Read more at the Washington Post.