A former employee at Marriott Vacations Worldwide is suing the company for alleged racial discrimination. The employee, who is African-American, claims that his co-workers were harassing him at work.
He was the only African-American worker at the company’s Palm Desert, California office, and said that the other employees singled him out, which made him feel embarrassed and defeated. After several incidents, he resigned in early 2018 after being placed on medical leave by his doctor.
A Lack of Office Space
The plaintiff was a sales executive, hired by Marriot in February of 2017. He claims that the office space he was assigned was little more than a storage closet, and it did not have air conditioning.
According to the complaint, all of the other salespeople had larger cubicles, which were two times the size of his area.
Targeted for Harassment
While at Marriott, the former employer attended frequent sales meetings, which was where much of the alleged harassment took place.
He claims that one of the sales directors repeatedly asked him to dance during these meetings, most often to Michael Jackson music. The others workers present laughed, making the employee feel humiliated.
The first time the director asked him to dance, the plaintiff did so because he felt pressured and did not want to make a bad first impression. The times after that though, he declined.
The Buckwheat Photo
The plaintiff described another incident when the salespeople were organizing a team building activity. One manager was collecting baby photos of the salespeople to be used for the event. The plaintiff told her that he did not have a photo available. He was then informed that if he did not provide one, a picture of Buckwheat would be used in its place.
Buckwheat was an African-American child actor in the “Little Rascals” television show that aired in the 1950s. The plaintiff told his supervisors that using the Buckwheat photograph was not appropriate, because the character is widely considered to be a racial stereotype.
Even though the plaintiff had voiced his concerns, the photo was used during the activity anyhow: It was projected onto a screen for everyone in the meeting to see. They starting laughing, and he became upset and left the meeting. Later on, the supervisors apologized to him.
Enough is Enough
The plaintiff began to experience symptoms of anxiety, which were serious enough for his doctor to put him on medical leave. He formally resigned from Marriott on January 1st of last year.
He started working with a lawyer, who investigated the case. The lawyer was in contact with the plaintiff’s former co-workers, who confirmed some of the allegations. The lawsuit was filed in late December in Los Angeles Superior Court. He is seeking unspecified damages.
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