Best Western Hotels in Tacoma and Federal Way to Pay $365,000 to Settle EEOC Suit for Harassment

SEATTLE — Hotel groups Pacific Hospitality and Seasons Hotel agreed to pay $365,000 and provide preventative measures to settle a federal harassment lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC charged in its lawsuit that the general manager who worked at both the Best Western Evergreen Inn (formerly La Quinta Federal Way) and Best Western Tacoma Dome persistently harassed and denigrated women, including those who were minorities and had strong religious beliefs, in violation of federal law. According to the EEOC, female employees were subjected to the constant use of racial slurs and derogatory sex-based and racial comments, yelling and physical intimidation. One employee had a stapler thrown at her head while another was told she was nothing but a “welfare mother” and should abort her pregnancy.

The EEOC charged that the general manager also illegally fired five women after they revealed they were pregnant. For years, the employers permitted a widespread environment of severe disrespect toward female employees, allowing the general manager to act with impunity, the EEOC said.

Further, the EEOC said, the harasser belittled the various religious beliefs of employees. He suggested an employee have an abortion, for example, and when the employee said her religious beliefs do not permit abortion, the general manager told her that God was not a part of her life and should not be a factor in her decision to keep the pregnancy. He told another employee that she should have an abortion because she already had a child, and then told her that she was her own God and that she could control her own destiny. A third employee told him that she was a Christian, to which he responded, “Then you are weak-minded.” This employee said she believed the harasser made a special effort to make religious comments around her because he knew she was religious and wanted to bother her.

Harassment of employees due to sex, race, pregnancy and religion violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (CV 10-05715 BHS) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Tacoma. Under the court-enforceable consent decree that resolved the lawsuit, Pacific Hospitality and Seasons Hotel will pay 11 victims a total of $365,000. For four years, the EEOC will monitor the hotels’ compliance with the decree’s other terms, including their agreement to immediately fire the general manager, re-employ two of the discrimination victims and make significant changes to policies. The hotels will also conduct training, create a human resources department and provide employees better avenues for complaint.

“The women in this case were trying to support their families—to keep the lights on and put food on the table,” said EEOC San Francisco District Office Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo. “Rather than being allowed to work, they were threatened, screamed at, subjected to sexist and racist slurs by upper management and had their religious beliefs belittled. Federal law protects employees from this type of degrading mistreatment.”

EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado added, “The harassment by the general manager in this case was shockingly hateful and affected the women who worked under him in very real and damaging ways. I am glad that the defendants finally took appropriate action and fired the harassing manager. It’s unfortunate that it took a federal lawsuit to spur this solution.”