ACLU Brings Complaint of Sexual Harassment Against Manhattan Hotel

February 4, 2004 12:00 am

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Ines Bello

Hotel worker Ines Bello, 24, was fired for resisting her manager’s sexual advances.

NEW YORK–The American Civil Liberties Union today filed sexual harassment charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of five Latina employees of the Broadway Plaza Hotel who were sexually harassed and economically exploited by the hotel manager.

Speaking at a news conference at the ACLU’s Manhattan headquarters, Jennifer Arnett, a staff attorney at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, said: “While the Civil Rights Act promises equal rights to all, immigrant women – who are most vulnerable to exploitation – are also often most fearful of coming forward to assert their rights. This case reflects our determination to extend the full protection of our laws to women across the economic spectrum, especially poor women, women of color, and immigrant women.”

Each of the five complainants, housekeepers at the Broadway Plaza Hotel for periods of one week to several years, reported sexual harassment by the hotel’s manager, including attempts to hug, kiss, and fondle; unwanted caresses; sexually offensive and explicit language; unrelenting talk about the manager’s sexual exploits; and retaliation for refusing the manager’s advances. In addition, all of the women were forced to work seven days per week, for up to 16 hours per day without any breaks. One was forced to clean the manager’s home after work and without pay; and none was permitted to eat, drink, or take bathroom breaks during the working day.

According to Ines Bello, who was fired after one week of resistance to the manager’s forceful sexual advances, “I did not like Mr. Ramirez’s sexual attention and did not think fighting off his advances should be part of my job.”

Juana Sierra, a minor during most of her time as a housekeeper at the hotel, said: “I was very frightened by Mr. Ramirez. Due to his sexual harassment, threats, and nonstop yelling, I became very nervous and sick. I was especially scared of Mr. Ramirez’s caresses.”

The EEOC matter is one of several sex discrimination cases launched by the ACLU Women’s Rights Project under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act on behalf of immigrant women workers who labor in hotels, restaurants, sweatshops and other service industries. In Liu v. Oriental Buffet, the Women’s Rights Project obtained a $3.5 million default judgment on behalf of two immigrant women who were exploited and discriminated against by the owners of a Chinese restaurant where they worked.

“The complainants in this case speak for thousands of immigrant women workers throughout the United States who are similarly exploited and who are fearful of complaining publicly about their abuse,” said Lenora Lapidus, Director of the Women’s Rights Project. “By exposing illegal sexual discrimination and economic exploitation in cases like these, we hope to encourage more women to come forward and assert their rights.”

“In bringing this action, we are are also putting employers on notice that they are responsible for the discriminatory acts of their managers,” Lapidus added.The president of Broadway Plaza Hotel, at 1155 Broadway (26th Street), is Salvatore Loduca, who is also associated with several other service businesses in the New York metropolitan area.

The complaint was filed against the Broadway Plaza Hotel on behalf of Juana Sierra Trejo, Gabriela Flores Viegas, Ines Bello Castillo, Carmen Calixto Rodriquez and Lucero Santes Vazquez.

The ACLU complaint is online at /node/36267

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