Business

Lawsuit: Best Western hotel manager bullied women

Best Western Evergreen Inn and Suites in Federal Way. - Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror
Best Western Evergreen Inn and Suites in Federal Way.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror

A federal harassment lawsuit resulted in a settlement for employees at Best Western hotels in Federal Way and Tacoma.

The general manager for both hotels is accused of threatening and degrading female minorities about religion, abortions, race and sex. The general manager is also charged with illegally firing five women over their pregnancies.

Two hotel ownership groups, Pacific Hospitality and Seasons Hotel, will pay $365,000 and provide preventative measures, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The commission enforces federal laws against employment discrimination.

The general manager worked at both the Best Western Evergreen Inn and Suites in Federal Way, and the Best Western Tacoma Dome.

The EEOC reports that employees worked in an environment of "severe disrespect toward female employees."

Female employees, including minorities with strong religious beliefs, were subjected to racial slurs, derogatory sexual comments and physical intimidation, the EEOC reports. One employee had a stapler thrown at her head. Another employee was allegedly told she was "nothing but a welfare mother" who should abort her pregnancy.

Employees were constantly belittled for their religious beliefs, the EEOC reports, citing examples of the general manager telling employees to get abortions. When one woman refused to get an abortion because of her religious beliefs, the general manager told her God was not a part of her life and should not be a factor in her decision to keep the pregnancy.

When one employee said she was a Christian, the harasser replied, "Then you are weak-minded."

The federal harassment charges were in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Pacific Hospitality and Seasons Hotel groups will pay 11 victims a total of $365,000. The EEOC will monitor the hotels' compliance with other terms.

The hotels agreed to fire the general manager, rehire two of the victims and change policies. The hotels will conduct training, create a human resources department and streamline the process for employee complaints, the EEOC reports.

Jim Fowler, a Seattle-based attorney representing a co-owner of the hotels, said the owners have taken action to eliminate the problem.

"The allegations were focused on one employee and of course that employee is no longer there. There were no allegations of any such conduct by the owners, and in fact many of the people were highly complimentary of the owners," Fowler said. "It's very clear in our settlement there's no admission of wrongdoing."

Nizar Sayani, a co-owner of the hotels, said some of the employees who claimed they faced discrimination had drug issues and used hotel rooms to entertain their own guests. The general manager "had some issues disciplining people and making sure they followed the rules," he said. "These are simply allegations (the alleged victims) had."

The general manager accused of this harassment has not been identified. At tripadvisor.com, a commenter cited as the general manager for the Federal Way hotel responded to feedback from customers.

 

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