A hotel company agreed to pay $2.5 million to hotel dishwashers that were called slaves and then fired.
The 17 people fired from the luxury Miami Beach hotel were all Haitian and comprised the entire dishwashing staff. They went to the human resources department to complain about a supervisor calling them slaves after they asked that a broken service elevator be fixed. They were all fired as a result, according to a July 30 press release from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The Miami Herald said that only these Haitian workers had to do work carrying heavy loads. The press release states they were not permitted to speak Creole while the Hispanic workers were allowed to speak Spanish. After the firing, the black Haitian workers were all replaced by a staffing agency workforce of mostly light-skinned Hispanics.
The incident occurred in April 2014, although the lawsuit was filed in April 2017, according to the Miami Herald. The dishwashers worked in The Bazaar by José Andrés, Katsuya, and the Hyde Beach, all restaurants inside of the SLS South Beach hotel, according to the press release.
James Greeley, chief legal officer of the hotel’s parent company said that the firing of the dishwashing staff and its replacement by outsourced workers was due to a “perfectly legitimate business motive” and that not all workers in that team were Haitian, the Miami Herald reported.
He also said the hotel has other Haitian workers in “customer-facing positions.”
“We’re an inclusive company, which employs people of over 60 nationalities,” said Greeley.
In addition to the settlement money, the hotel company agreed to provide training for three years to human resources officials, management personnel, and hourly employees in six hotels, including SLS Hotel South Beach, Shore Club, SLS Brickell, Delano, The Raleigh, and SLS Lux Miami, according to the press release.
Greeley told the Herald that the company “made the decision to settle this in an amicable way for the benefit of our former employees.”
The hotel company will also have an independent monitor attending the training sessions and reporting back to the EEOC. The EEOC will also look for data on terminations, layoffs, or involuntary separations during the three-year period, according to the press release.
“At the end of the day these were our employees,” Greeley added. “These are not adversaries.”