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Eastern District Dismisses EEOC Suit Against Hotel

Published by on August 9, 2010

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia recently granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment on a national origin discrimination claim brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that the defendant’s failure to re-hire certain non-Hispanic employees violated Title VII.  A copy of the order is here.  More after the break. […]

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia recently granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment on a national origin discrimination claim brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that the defendant’s failure to re-hire certain non-Hispanic employees violated Title VII.  A copy of the order is here.  More after the break.

In EEOC v. Mount Vernon Holdings, LLC, the EEOC filed suit on behalf of a group of former employees of a Best Western hotel who had not been re-hired when the hotel changed ownership.  Under the previous owner, the hotel had been in very poor condition and on the verge of losing its Best Western membership.  Pursuant to the terms of the Purchase and Sale agreement, all employees were to be terminated prior to the closing, with the new owner retaining discretion to re-hire any of the former employees.  The new owner hired twenty individuals for the hotel staff, including ten former employees of the hotel.  Of the twenty individuals hired, eleven were of Hispanic national origin, and of the ten re-hired employees, six were Hispanic. 

The EEOC’s discrimination suit alleged that the hotel had a “preference” for hiring Hispanic individuals for housekeeping positions based on the fact that seven of the eight housekeepers were Hispanic.  The court disagreed, stating that the same manager who hired the Hispanic housekeepers had also hired non-Hispanic individuals at the same time.  The court also found that there was no direct or circumstantial evidence of discrimination, and that the EEOC had failed to meet its burden of advancing sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that national origin was a motivating factor for the employment decision. 

With respect to direct evidence of discrimination, the court found that deposition testimony contradicted the EEOC’s assertion that the hiring manager had made comments related to Hispanic employees being “good workers.”  The court also found that the EEOC had failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination.  As to the third element, the court stated that the former employees were not qualified for the position based on evidence of ongoing performance issues.  Even if a prima facie case could be established, the court found that the defendant had demonstrated legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for not re-hiring certain employees.  The individuals who were selected for re-hiring were those that had shown the requisite attitude and willingness to perform their jobs in a manner that would allow the hotel to meet the Best Western standard.  The court noted that after about five months of hiring the new staff, the hotel began earning “Excellence in Housekeeping” awards.  The court also found that the EEOC had failed to advance any evidence that the defendant’s reasons were pretext for discrimination.

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