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Contentious EEOC litigation over harassment of dark-skinned, Latino housekeepers is settled

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

After three rounds of motions to dismiss and challenges to agency investigations and conciliation, Pioneer Hotel, Inc., has agreed to pay $150,000 to settle an EEOC lawsuit asserting that a class of housekeepers was subjected to harassment because of their Latino national origin and dark-colored skin. The hotel also agreed to provide injunctive relief that includes monitoring by an EEO consultant.

An employee who worked in the housekeeping division of the hotel filed an EEOC charge alleging that he was discriminated against because of his national origin (Mexican) and color (brown). The EEOC investigated and, after conciliation failed, filed an action alleging that the charging party and a class of similarly situated individuals suffered harassment creating a hostile work environment based on their national origin.

The case was aggressively litigated, including rounds of proceedings testing the sufficiency of the complaint. The EEOC amended it twice, identifying a purported class of employees who were discriminated against based on their national origin (Latino) and their color (dark-skinned), and identifying Section 706 of Title VII as the section under which it was filing suit. Pioneer Hotel also challenged the sufficiently of the EEOC’s investigation and conciliation efforts.

On June 15, a federal judge in Nevada entered a four-year consent decree under which Pioneer Hotel will pay $150,000 to be distributed among the complainants identified by the EEOC. The hotel is also enjoined from subjecting or permitting workers to harassed based on their Latino national origin or dark skin, or from creating, facilitating, or permitting a work environment hostile to individuals of with dark skin or with Latino national origin. Pioneer Hotel must also hire an EEO consultant who will review and implement antidiscrimination and retaliation policies and procedures, and submit to monitoring, training, reporting, and notice-posting requirements.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the District of Nevada; the case number is 2:11-CV-OIS88-LRH-GFW.