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Friday, July 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

The Worst Boss in the World?

ALBUQUERQUE (CN) - When a businessman bought his fourth hotel, in Taos, N.M. and renamed it the Whitten Inn, he brought racism and discrimination along with him, the EEOC claims in court.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued four hotels Tuesday in Federal Court: Roark-Whitten Hospitality 2 LP dba Whitten Inn; Roark-Whitten Hospitality 3 LP dba Whitten Inn; Travelodge Ltd. dba Whitten Inn Expo; and Better Hotels, Ltd. dba Whitten Inn.

The hotels are in Taos, two in Abilene, and one in Santee, S.C. The businesses themselves are the only defendants.

The EEOC sued on behalf of at least eight employees or former employees, "and other aggrieved Hispanic and black employees."

Lawrence Whitten, who owns all four Whitten Inns, laid out rules that singled out employees by race, according to the EEOC:

"[E]mployees were not allowed to speak Spanish in his presence."

"Whitten told a manager at the Whitten Inn in Santee, South Carolina that he 'would not tolerate Spanish at his property in Taos.'"

"Whitten required all Hispanic employees at the Taos hotel to park on the far perimeter of the front parking lot. Whitten allowed the one Anglo housekeeper to park in a significantly closer and more convenient parking space at the back of the hotel."

A desk clerk was told "he could no longer work at the front desk because of his accent," and was transferred to maintenance and housekeeping.

"Whitten required Hispanic and Black employees at other locations to change or Anglicize their names, including ... Rogelio to Roger; Helena to Lena; Eirineo to Eddie; Roberto to Robert; Emilio to Mike; Leticia to Tisha; Katina to Tina; Latoya to Toya; Andrea to Andi; and Jumeka to Meka."

"Whitten paid several Hispanic employees their final checks in the form of rolled pennies."

Whitten referred to employees as "Buckwheat", "wetbacks", "niggers" and other racial epithets.

Employees were instructed on occasion not to rent rooms to black and Hispanic guests.

All these tactics created a hostile work environment and were designed to force employees to quit, the EEOC says.

The policy was effective, as within six weeks of Whitten-Roark taking over the hotel in Taos all but one of the Hispanic employees who had been present at the first meeting with the new owner had resigned.

The EEOC seeks damages for racial discrimination and retaliation.

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