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Best Practice: Don’t Refer to Your Employees as “Slaves”

Earlier this year, a swanky Miami hotel, SLS South Beach Hotel, agreed to settle a discrimination lawsuit with seventeen dishwashers who said they were mistreated and eventually fired because of their nationality.

The lawsuit alleges that the Haitian dishwashers were banned from speaking Creole at work, despite the fact that Spanish-speaking employees were allowed to speak Spanish on the job.  They were also required to perform duties that other workers at the hotel were not, such as lifting heavy items up the hotel’s thirteen flights of stairs.

Discrimination got a lot more explicit from there.  Specifically, when one of the dishwashers asked management to fix a broken service elevator, a manager responded, “Let those slaves do the work.”  When the employees reported the incident to the hotel’s human resources department, the entire dishwashing staff was fired. They were all replaced later that day with all white and/or Hispanic workers.

SBE Entertainment, which manages the hotel, says the company did not do anything wrong but that settling with former employees was the right thing to do for all parties: “In settling this, it was not to be construed as an admission that the allegations were true.  We didn’t want to continue a nasty battle with employees that we cared about.”