Lawsuit Claims Haitian Workers at South Beach Hotel Were Called ‘Slaves'

A luxury hotel in South Beach is facing a discrimination lawsuit that claims 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 filed the lawsuit Tuesday against the SLS Hotel, claiming they violated federal law.

The suit alleges the Haitian workers were terminated and replaced with light-skinned Hispanics. It also claims managers called the black employees disparaging names, even referring to them as "slaves."

James Greeley, chief legal officer for sbe, which owns the hotel, said the company decided more than two years ago 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. "We shared all of that information with the EEOC, and have been engaged in what we thought were cooperative and good-faith discussions about how to resolve this matter. We do not believe we have done anything wrong and will fully defend our company against any false claims."

The lawsuit seeks monetary compensation and changes at the hotel.

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