A black man thrown out of a Portland DoubleTree Hotel after calling his mother in the hotel lobby is suing the hotel chain for $10 million. Jermaine Massey, who filmed the encounter between himself and a hotel security guard that went viral last year, filed the suit against the Hilton hotel chain on Wednesday, alleging the hotel chain has a systemic issue with racial profiling. Hilton owns a number of franchises, including the DoubleTree, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites and Waldorf-Astoria.
Massey traveled to Portland for a Travis Scott concert in December 2018, booking a short stay at the DoubleTree. The 35-year-old Microsoft employee was speaking to his mother in the hotel lobby when he was approached by security guard Earl Meyers.
Meyers accused Massey of trespassing, continuing to harass Massey even after he informed the guard he was a registered guest. Massey filmed part of the encounter, including the moment Meyers called the police on him. Portland police later confirmed to the Huffington Post that they responded to a call about a “trespasser”—a label that feels particularly strange given that Massey, before being taken off the property, was asked to remove his belongings from his room. Massey had to find other accommodations for that night, he says in his suit.
Meyers and the DoubleTree’s manager were later fired. But Massey and his attorney say the hotel’s parent company has a history of racial discrimination, for which it must be held accountable.
“Mr. Massey hopes to learn what policies of Hilton have led to these events, what Hilton has done in response to such events, and will ask the jury to punish Hilton as an example to other hotels who may be tempted to encourage or tolerate discrimination at their places of business,” Portland attorney Jason Kafoury told Oregon Live.
Kafoury referenced three other incidents from last year in which black guests at Hilton properties appeared to be singled out. In each of the instances, staffers either called the police or threatened to do so.
From Oregon Live:
In March 2018, Albert Law says he was waiting for a business colleague in the lobby Hilton Richmond Downtown in Virginia when a security guard asked him if he “belonged there” and to show his room key and ID. Law allegedly responded that he’d be happy to if white people nearby were asked to do the same.
Law complained and ultimately received a response from hotel management saying he was “deeply disappointed,” that the guard was no longer working there and that the hotel has struggled to handle a growing “vagrant population” that occupies its public areas, according to email correspondence Law provided.
“I do understand if you feel that you were in some way being profiled, as I might have felt the same in that situation,” read one email Law shared through his attorneys.
A similar incident occurred at a Hampton Inn & Suites in Nashville, Tenn. in October 2018, when Richard Willock was sitting in a hotel lobby watching a game on the TV. A manager approached him and asked if he was a guest:
He says when he replied he was, the manager asked for his room number and name. When Willock gave his room number and questioned why he was approached while others in the lobby weren’t, the manager told the guard to remove Willock from the lobby and called police, he says.
According to emails provided by Willock, a guest assistance supervisor apologized and described the encounter as a “service failure” but said it wasn’t racial profiling.
The police were summoned in an incident at a Hampton Inn & Suites in Wilson, N. C. a month later. Delores Corbett, who was staying at the hotel at the time, said police were called to escort her off the property—with a patrol car trailing her family’s vehicle as they drove off—after she spoke to hotel management about an error in her bill.
Corbett says she, her two teenagers and other relatives were staying at the hotel to attend events honoring her mother-in-law, a prominent African American civil rights activist.
According to an email shared by Corbett, the hotel’s general manager described the employee’s actions “unprofessional and unwarranted.”
“I’m not sure why the front agent panicked and contacted the police for an issue,” read one email.
Massey is seeking $3 million from Hilton for “his frustration, humiliation and feelings of racial stigmatization,” on top of $7 million in punitive damages.