DENVER — Former employees at a western Colorado hotel said they were fired and replaced with Latino workers because the business owners thought white and non-Hispanic workers were lazy, according to a federal lawsuit announced Monday.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is seeking back pay for employees that federal officials said were fired from a Hampton Inn franchise in Craig, Colo., according to the lawsuit filed last week.
The lawsuit claims the general manager of the hotel was told by the business owners "to hire more qualified maids, and that they preferred maids to be Hispanic because in their opinion Hispanics worked harder."
The lawsuit goes on to say that one of the fired employees was told she was being terminated because the hotel owners preferred non-American and non-Caucasian workers "because it was their impression that such workers are lazy."
The hotel is operated by Century Shree Corp. and Century Rama Inc., two Wyoming corporations. Attorney Tim Kingston said Monday he could not comment because he had not yet discussed the lawsuit with his clients.
Mary Jo O'Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC, the agency that handles workplace discrimination cases, said the lawsuit is unusual because minorities are typically the parties bringing complaints forward.
"I've been doing this work for 30-some years and I've never filed a case like this," she said.
O'Neill said her agency believes the hotel operators "sort of played to the stereotype of Hispanic workers – that they're going to work harder and they're not going to complain."
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three workers in the laundry and housekeeping departments, but O'Neill said it is possible more workers also faced discrimination.
The lawsuit said that between August and November, all non-Hispanic workers in the laundry and housekeeping departments resigned or were fired and replaced with Latinos.
The EEOC also accuses the two companies of violating federal record-keeping laws by failing to archive and preserve employment documents for at least one year.
In addition to back pay, the lawsuit seeks to reinstate the fired workers at the hotel, and federal officials are also asking for mandatory antidiscrimination classes for the companies.