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Press Release 10-03-2014

Whitten Inn Hotels Sued by EEOC for National Origin, Race, and Color Discrimination, Retaliation

Hotel Employees in New Mexico, Texas and South Carolina Suffered Hostile Work Environment, Federal Agency Charges

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Four hotels in Taos, N.M., Abilene, Texas and Santee, S.C., all doing business as "Whitten Inn," violated federal law by discriminating against employees because of their race, national origin, and color, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity charged in a lawsuit it filed today.  

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, employees were subjected to discrimination and a hostile work environment, including different treatment, racial slurs and derogatory comments. The EEOC alleges that minority employees were subjected to discriminatory policies as part of the alleged hostile work environment.  The EEOC further claims that several employees were fired in retaliation for complaining about discrimination.  

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to resolve the case through its pre-litigation conciliation process.  The lawsuit, EEOC v. Roark Whitten Hospitality, d.b.a. Whitten Inn,, Civil Action No. 1:14-cv00884-SCY-KK, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, seeks back pay, lost benefits, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief, including training, and other initiatives to stop any future violation of Title VII. 

"Employers have an obligation to ensure that their employment policies and conduct do not discriminate against employees and that those policies are fairly implemented across the board," said Mary Jo O'Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC's Phoenix District Office, whose jurisdiction includes the EEOC's Albuquerque Office.  

EEOC Albuquerque Area Director Derrick Newton added, "Derisive names and offensive slurs are never tolerable in any workplace.  The EEOC is here to stand up for decent, fair treatment of all employees and fight race-based abuse wherever we find it." 

EEOC Trial Attorney Christina Vigil, who will be litigating the lawsuit, said, "Discriminatory policies and conduct have no place in a state as culturally rich as New Mexico or in any employment setting.  This employer perpetrated double-triple discrimination - based on race, color and national origin, and in three states - all of which is illegal, and all of which we're pledged to combat."  

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at