A ritzy Miami hotel has agreed to settle a discrimination suit with 17 Haitian dishwashers who say they were mistreated and eventually fired because of their background.
While the allegations stem from 2014, the decision to settle was announced just last Friday. Earlier this year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the discrimination suit on behalf of the former employees, according to the Miami Herald.
The suit alleged that the Haitian dishwashers working at the SLS South Beach hotel were banned from speaking Creole at work, but a similar ban on Spanish among other employees was not put in place. They were also asked to perform duties other workers at the luxury hotel were not, like lifting heavy items up the hotel’s 13 flights, the Herald writes.
The discrimination only got more explicit from there, they say.
When one of the dishwashers asked management to fix the broken service elevator, a boss replied, “let those slaves do the work.”
The dishwashers, who worked at SLS’ restaurants, including The Bazaar by Jose Andrés, Katsuya and Hyde Beach, say when they reported the discrimination to the hotel’s human resources department, the entire dishwashing staff was cut. The very same day, they were replaced with staff “made up of almost entirely of white and/or Hispanic workers,” the suit alleges.
James Greeley, Chief Legal Officer for SBE Entertainment, which manages the luxury hotel, says the company did nothing wrong, but that settling with their former employees was the right thing for all parties.
“In settling this, it was not to be construed as an admission that the allegations were true,” said Greely, according to the Sun Sentinel. “We didn’t want to continue a nasty battle with employees that we cared about.”
He added that the Miami-based company currently employees more than 200 Haitian employees at its properties.
As part of the settlement, SBE will need to provide comprehensive training for its “human resources officials, management personnel, and hourly employees across six of SBE’s hotels,” writes the Sun Sentinel. In addition, the SLS hotel is now required to give all their restaurants’ chefs, sous-chefs, managers and hourly employees anti-discrimination training.
Carmen Manrara Cartaya, a trial attorney for the EEOC, told the Herald the mandatory trainings are “designed to prevent what happened to those Haitian workers to happen to anyone else again.”