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Jury Awards Hotel Employee Damages in Racial Harassment Suit

Source: NY Times

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Posted on 20 Dec 2011

The Millennium Broadway Hotel on its website says “everyone receives star treatment.” But one longtime employee said he was treated just the opposite, claiming that he was the victim of a long campaign of racial harassment that the hotel did nothing to stop.

Freddrick MacMillan, who has worked at the hotel in various capacities since 1990, sued in Federal District Court in Manhattan in 2009, saying he had been subjected to a hostile environment.

Mr. MacMillan, who is African-American, said several co-workers habitually referred to him as “boy” and used a racial epithet, and one of them used a noose to hang a doll with a black face from a bulletin board in a supervisor’s office.

On Friday a jury, after issuing a verdict in Mr. MacMillan’s favor, awarded him $125,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.
Lawyers for the hotel told the court that they would file a motion asking Judge Paul G. Gardephe to set aside the jury’s verdict. Mr. MacMillan’s lawyer, Darnley Stewart, said she would oppose that request.

“He’s overwhelmed,” Ms. Stewart said of her client. She added that Mr. MacMillan’s department “was run by what was described at trial as a bunch of frat boys, and he wasn’t part of the pack.”

Larry L. Turner, a lawyer representing the hotel, said, “While the hotel was disappointed in the verdict, we shall pursue all legal avenues available to obtain a result consistent with the evidence.”

In his lawsuit, Mr. MacMillan said he began working at the hotel as a housekeeper and did a stint as a “runner,” taking guests items they requested. In 2002 he began taking engineering courses and in 2004 he started working in the hotel’s engineering department, helping to adjust heating and cooling systems.

He was the only black employee in that department, the suit said, and several other mechanics and supervisors frequently used a racial epithet when he was around, apparently in an effort to cause him discomfort.

The suit contended the hotel’s management at favored white and Hispanic workers over African-Americans.

In 2008, the suit said, Mr. MacMillan saw several “voodoo dolls” with black faces on the desk of Tom Scudero, the chief engineer and property operations manager. A few days later, according to the complaint, Mr. MacMillan saw one of the dolls suspended with a noose from a bulletin board in an office used by the director of building operations. A co-worker, the suit said, told Mr. MacMillan that the doll represented him. The doll remained dangling for about two days, until a union official demanded its removal.

Mr. Scudero and the others who Mr. MacMillan said targeted him have left the hotel since the lawsuit was filed, Ms. Stewart said. But Mr. MacMillan, 58, stayed and has continued working as a mechanic.

“He’s still there,” Ms. Stewart said. “He is getting the opportunities that were never afforded him before.”


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