Hotel Retaliation Suit Settled

OCEAN CITY – A federal lawsuit filed last year against the former owner and management company of a resort motel over illegal employee hiring and dismissal practices was settled this week with the defendant paying restitution to the plaintiff and agreeing to amend their policies.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit in U.S. District Court last September against Spa Motel General Partnership, which formerly owned and operated the Best Western Ocean City Hotel and Suites on 55th Street, and the Commercial Management Company (CMC) that managed the motel, for alleged discrimination in hiring and dismissal practices dating back to 2006.

The suit alleged the hotel’s general manager fired the housekeeping manager, Cheryl Gully, in retaliation after Gully refused to terminate three Russian housekeepers on her staff when ordered to do so. The suit also alleges the hotel ownership group essentially prevented Gully from gaining similar employment at other hotels and motels in the resort.

In June 2006, the hotel group fired Gully because she reportedly failed to follow a directive from the facility’s general manager that basically said the company did not want foreigners working in the hotel. Gully filed a complaint with the EEOC, which, after carefully reviewing the facts of the case, decided to file suit against the hotel’s former owners.

In March of this year, the Spa Motel General Partnership was officially dissolved by court order in Montgomery County and ownership of the Best Western has since been transferred, but the company remains liable until the partnership’s affairs are completed, according to the EEOC suit. Spa Motel sold the Best Western in Ocean City in December 2006 and the motel is now under new management.

The EEOC filed suit after reviewing evidence the allegations made by Gully had merit.

“Since at least June 2006, the defendant engaged in unlawful employment practices at the Best Western Ocean City Hotel and Suites in violation of Title VII,” the complaint reads. “The practices include terminating Ms. Gully’s employment because she opposed practices and conducts made unlawful by Title VII that were occurring at the Best Western.”

Title VII prohibits any employment decision, including recruitment, hiring, firing or layoffs based on national origin. According to the EEOC suit, the former hotel owners were reckless in their non-compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“The unlawful employment practices complained of … were done with malice or with reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of Cheryl Gully,” the complaint reads.

The suit was formally settled this week after both parties agreed to avoid a protracted legal battle. According to the consent decree settling the lawsuit, the now-defunct Spa Motel General Partnership will pay Gully $36,000 in monetary relief. In addition, Spa Motel General Partnership and CMC will be subject to certain remedial relief stemming from the settlement.

For example, both Spa Motel and CMC will be prohibited from retaliating against any employee who complains about discriminatory employment practices for a period of three years. Because it has ceased its business operations, Spa Motel will only be subject to this condition should it resume its operations during the life of the consent decree.

In addition, CMC will provide training to its managers and all of its employees responsible for hiring, firing and supervising employees at the hotels it currently manages. Spa Motel will also be required to provide the same training should it resume its business operations. Both entities will also be required to post notices in their hotels affirming their commitment to maintaining a work environment free of retaliation.