By: Diana Johnson
“In serving this community, the Miami District Office is mindful of the diverse workforce in all facets of the service, hospitality and tourism sectors and will protect workers facing discrimination in these important Florida industries.” This quote from Michael Farrell, the director of Miami’s District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission represents the federal agency’s vigilant efforts to ensure safety and equality for the citizens of our community here in South Florida. The EEOC’s goal of eradicating discrimination in the workplace and advancing opportunities for allis accomplished by targeting systemic inequality and representing the interests of the American people by litigating cases to show employers, and more importantly their employees, that unequal treatment is not acceptable.
In April of 2017, the EEOC filed a complaint against SLS Hotel South Beach alleging that they had fired seventeen Black Haitian dishwashers en masse and that same day replaced them with light-skinned Hispanics. Moreover, Haitian employees were given more difficult assignments in comparison to Hispanic employees and told they were not allowed to speak Creole at work. The EEOC argued that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this constitutes illegal discrimination based on national origin. After attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement, the EEOC brought suit for monetary and injunctive relief. In July 2018, a $2.5 million dollar settlement was reached, and equitable relief was granted to address the inappropriate workplace discrimination.
Holding a business accountable for discrimination is an incredible victory in any city, and such achievements are especially important in light of Miami-Dade County’s diverse population. A case like EEOC v. SLS Hotel South Beach Et Al.sends a vital message to the South Florida community. 65% of residents are Hispanic, 17.1% are African American, 15.4% are white, and 4.5% are Haitian. Because of the variety of national origins represented in our city, it is critical that South Florida goes the extra mile to protect its citizens.
The result of the SLS case was highly publicized, appearing in a variety of media outlets. Putting a spotlight on employment discrimination against minorities sends an essential message to employers that the mistreatment of employees will not be tolerated. Additionally, making the information about the case widely available gives employees an opportunity to be more aware of their rights personal rights in the workplace. As the news begins to spread, perhaps someone else who has been told they are not permitted to speak their native language with coworkers might see this story and as a result, feel empowered to fight back. Spreading awareness of employees’ rights helps keep employers accountable for their actions.
EEOC Regional Attorney Robert Weisberg’s words send a powerful message for the future: “The EEOC will continue to fight to prevent these discriminatory employment practices, especially against vulnerable workers.”
EEOC Sues SLS Hotel in Miami Beach For Discriminatory Firing Of Black Haitian Kitchen Workers, EEOC.ɢᴏᴠ, https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/4-18-17.cfm (last visited Nov. 4, 2018).
SLS Hotel to Pay $2.5 Million To Settle EEOC Race, Color, National Origin Lawsuit, EEOC.ɢᴏᴠ, https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/7-30-18.cfm (last visited Nov. 4, 2018).
U.S. Cᴇɴꜱᴜꜱ Bᴜʀᴇᴀᴜ,https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml (last visited Nov. 4, 2018) (Census data for population demographics in Miami-Dade County from 2010).
See Tim Swift, South Beach hotel to pay $2.5 million over discrimination claims by Haitian dishwashers, ABC Lᴏᴄᴀʟ 10 Nᴇᴡꜱ (July 30, 2018), https://www.local10.com/news/florida/miami-beach/south-beach-hotel-to-pay-25-million-over-discrimination-claims-by-haitian-dishwashers; see also Rebecca Ellis, Fired Haitian dishwashers at a South Beach hotel to get $2.5M after discrimination suit, Mɪᴀᴍɪ Hᴇʀᴀʟᴅ (July 30, 2018), https://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/tourism-cruises/article215764980.html; see also Johnny Diaz, They were called ‘slaves,’ lawsuit claimed; now Miami Beach dishwashers get $2.5 million settlement, Sᴜɴ Sᴇɴᴛɪɴᴇʟ (July 31, 2018), https://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/miami-dade/fl-reg-miami-beach-hotel-settles-lawsuit-haitian-dishwashers-20180731-story.html.
Supra note 5.