Former hotel employee takes claim to arbitration

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — A 40-year-old Black former events server who sued the Chateau Marmont hotel, alleging she was the victim of racial discrimination and sexual harassment and wrongfully laid off in 2020, will take her claims to an arbitrator rather than a jury, her new court papers show.

Plaintitt Thomasina Gross’ lawyer, Lauren Teukolsky, filed court papers with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mel Red Recana seeking dismissal of her suit, filed Jan. 27, so the case can proceed in arbitration. The request was made “without prejudice,” leaving the door open for Gross to reactivate the suit if circumstances warrant her doing so.

The suit alleged race discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation and failure to prevent discrimination and harassment. She sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Gross was hired as an events server at the Sunset Boulevard hotel in October 2017 and hoped to be promoted, but despite having extensive experience, she was repeatedly passed over for positions in favor of less qualified white applicants, including one she trained, the suit stated.

Because events hours were irregular, Gross tried to obtain shifts filling in for positions in the hotel’s restaurant, the suit states. She notified the restaurant’s general manager about her availability, her preparedness for various jobs and her desire to work additional hours, the suit stated.

Through these regular inquiries, Gross sometimes obtained shifts taking guest reservations over the phone, assisting with in-room dining service or working outside in the hotel driveway to turn away walk-ins during busier seasons, the suit stated.

Gross also asked for shifts as a restaurant server, a highly coveted position because of its potential for substantial tips, but she was never granted any of those opportunities, the suit stated.

But despite being told there were never any restaurant openings, Grosssaw that new servers, all of whom were white, continued to be hired, the suit states.

In her work, Gross received unwanted touching from guests on a near-daily basis, the suit states. Events were frequently overcrowded, which made food scarcer and caused guests to become more physically aggressive, often grabbing the plaintiff by her shoulders or arms, pulling her toward them, blocking her way and physically intimidating her or invading her personal space, the suit stated.

One guest ordered Gross to get on her knees to pick up spilled food on the carpet, leering at her while she did so, according to the suit.

Gross proposed a specific step Chateau Marmont could take to prevent the unwanted touching, but management rejected her suggestion, the suit alleged.

The solution that Ms. Gross’ managers most frequently offered was simply to tell Ms. Gross to avoid problem guests,” the suit states.

Gross continued to work as an events server until she was laid off along with about 240 other Chateau Marmont employees in March 2020 when the hotel shut down due to the coronavirus, the suit stated.

Hotel owner Andre Balazs announced last July that he planned to turn the hotel into a private timeshare.

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