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Press Release 04-18-2017

EEOC Sues SLS Hotel in Miami Beach For Discriminatory Firing Of Black Haitian Kitchen Workers

Terminations Were Based on Race, Color and National Origin, Federal Agency Charged

MIAMI - The SLS Hotel in Miami Beach's South Beach violated federal law by firing black Haitian dishwashers because of their race, color and national origin, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit today.

The EEOC's complaint alleged that SLS Hotel South Beach terminated all the Black Haitian steward/ dishwashers and that they were replaced with light-skinned Hispanics. SLS Hotel South Beach chose to outsource the steward/dishwasher positions without providing the black Haitian employees an opportunity to apply to the staffing agency before their termination. The terminations, per the complaint, were not performance-based.

Some of the terminated employees saw their replacements - largely light-skinned Hispanics - performing their job duties as they exited the termination meeting and were escorted from the hotel by security personnel.

The EEOC's complaint indicates that their termination was not the first time black Haitian employees were treated differently than Hispanic employees. The EEOC said that black Haitian employees were told not to speak Creole, even amongst themselves, while Hispanic employees were allowed to speak Spanish. The EEOC also said that black Haitian dishwashers were asked to carry heavy items and perform other difficult tasks, but the Hispanics were spared these tough assignments. Further, the EEOC said, managers and chefs called the black Haitian dishwashers disparaging names, including "f-----g Haitians," and referred to them as "slaves."

Discrimination on the basis of race, color, and/or national origin discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit against SLS Hotel South Beach (and affiliated entities) (Case No.1:17-cv-21446) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami Division) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary and injunctive relief to address the discriminatory practices.

"Employers should not be able to avoid liability by using a staffing agency to discriminate when it cannot lawfully do so on its own," said the regional attorney for the EEOC's Miami District Office, Robert E. Weisberg. "Consistent with the agency's strategic enforcement goals, the EEOC will be vigilant in ensuring employment discrimination is not hidden behind increasingly complex business relationships, including the outsourcing concept."

Michael Farrell, district director for the EEOC's Miami District Office, added, "In serving this community, the Miami District Office is mindful of the diverse workforce in all facets of the service, hospitality and tourism sectors and will protect workers facing discrimination in these important Florida industries."

One of the six priorities in the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan for 2017-2021 is to attack discrimination in complex employment relationships and structures with a focus on staffing agencies, temporary workers, independent contractor relationships, and the on-demand economy.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.