Fired SLS Hotel employee says termination based on race

South Beach hotel denies any wrongdoing

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Hotel workers who claim they were fired based on their race have filed a lawsuit against the SLS Hotel in Miami Beach.

"We were called the F word on several occasions," Cedene Beaubrun said through a translator.

She and 14 other Haitian workers at SLS Hotel claim they were discriminated against because of their race, origin and skin color.

"We were told to carry heavy loads, while the non-white Hispanic people were not asked to do so," Beaubrun said.

They were fired in 2014.

"After two years working at SLS, we were told to come to a big meeting, and when we came to the meeting they were giving us the letter of termination, and they asked security to escort us," Beaubrun said. "We didn't know what we did wrong."

The lawsuit claims the 15 black Haitian workers were replaced with "light-skinned Hispanics," and that the Haitian employees were not provided an opportunity to apply to the staffing agency the hotel outsourced their positions to before their termination.

The group then filed a complaint. The 16-page document reveals workers were "called disparaging names by supervisors, managers and/or chefs and others, including being referred to as (expletive) Haitians."

James L. Greeley, chief legal officer for the hotel, released a statement to Local 10 News.

"(Hotel management company) sbe made the decision more than two years ago to outsource the staffing of a number of the departments of the SLS South Beach for economic reasons, helping to manage the wide seasonal fluctuations in the Florida market," the statement said. "When this issue first came to our attention, we immediately conducted a thorough internal investigation and found no evidence of wrongdoing."

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission though sees it differently.

"We investigated each of these charges," Armen Cartaya, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said. "We interviewed SLS employees, reviewed all of their documents, interviewed the charging parties and found reasonable cause that there had been discrimination by SLS Hotel." 

Greeley's statement went on to say that the hotel "engaged in what we thought were cooperative and good-faith discussions about how to resolve this matter."

"We do not believe we have done anything wrong and will fully defend our company against any false claims," the statement said.

"I believe what will come out in court is language that is even more shocking and egregious," attorney Jason R. Alderman said.