A luxury hotel in South Beach is paying $2.5 million to settle a discrimination lawsuit that claimed a group of Haitian dishwashers were fired because of their race, color and nationality and were called "slaves" by managers.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Monday announced that the SLS Hotel, owned by nightlife company sbe, agreed to pay the 17 Haitian dishwashers to settle the suit that was filed in April 2017.
The suit alleged that the Haitian workers were terminated on the basis of their race, color, and national origin and replaced with light-skinned Hispanics. It also claimed managers called the black employees disparaging names, even referring to them as "slaves."
After the suit was filed, James Greeley, chief legal officer for sbe, said the company decided more than two years earlier to outsource the staffing of some departments at the SLS Hotel for economic reasons, to try to manage "the wide seasonal fluctuations in the Florida market."
"When this issue first came to our attention, we immediately conducted a thorough internal investigation and found no evidence of wrongdoing," Greeley said in a statement at the time.
In a statement released Tuesday, sbe said they are an inclusive company with over 60 nationalities employed.
"Unfortunately, a number of people’s jobs were affected in 2014 when we made the business decision to outsource the entirety of one of our departments and all were given the opportunity to apply for their positions with the outsource company," the statement read. "The individuals who decided to outsource the stewarding department are not the two individuals the EEOC claims engaged in the mistreatment of the stewards. When this issue first came to our attention, we immediately conducted a thorough internal investigation."
The company said there has been no evidence of any wrongdoing and they fully cooperated with the EEOC.
"This matter has been going on for nearly four years and we made the decision to settle to draw closure for all involved in the most amicable way possible," the company's statement read.
Under the settlement, sbe agree to provide comprehensive training for human resources officials, management personnel, and hourly employees across six of sbe’s South Florida hotels. The EEOC will also receive comprehensive data on any terminations, layoffs, or involuntary separations that may occur over the three-year period across the six sbe hotels in the Miami region.
"EEOC will continue to protect workers in the hospitality industry, including the black Haitian community that makes up a significant part of the South Florida workforce," Michael Farrell, district director for the EEOC’s Miami District Office, said in a statement.