Former Chateau Marmont Worker Alleges Racist Environment

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Black former front desk worker for the Chateau Marmont is suing the Sunset Boulevard hotel, alleging she was forced to resign in 2019 after complaining about the racist attitude and comments of a longtime guest.

April Blackwell's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges wrongful termination, whistleblower retaliation, harassment, discrimination and negligence. She seeks unspecified damages in the suit filed Monday.

A Chateau Marmont representative told City News Service that the hotel would have a response to the lawsuit later Wednesday morning.

“As part of its party atmosphere and celebrity-oriented image, the Chateau maintains a racially stratified hierarchy among its employees, filling the majority of less desirable positions with workers of color and elevating young, thin, and light-skinned or white workers to the most visible and desirable front-of-the-house positions,'' the suit states.

Managing director Amanda Grandinetti, who is white and has worked at the Chateau for 17 years, reportedly made numerous racist comments to employees of color, including telling a favored Black employee, “You're my blackie,'' the suit states.

Blackwell, 36, worked as a part-time night auditor from December 2014 to December 2019, with a hiatus from January 2017 to June 2018 when she was outside Los Angeles, the suit states. Her usual work hours were about 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and she was responsible for all front desk matters overnight, such as accounting, valet charges, requests from guest rooms and any other issues that arose overnight.

Soon after she was hired, Blackwell began to experience racist and threatening behavior from guests, the suit states. The first incident involved the guest of a longtime Chateau patron who one night in late 2015 came to the front desk appearing drunk and demanded that the plaintiff give him a key to the longtime patron's room, the suit states.

The patron had earlier told Blackwell not to give the guest a key and when she refused the guest's request, the person became upset, cursed at her and called her the “N-word,'' the suit states.

Blackwell had other interactions with unruly guests that she reported to management and to the hotel's human resources department, the lawsuit states.

In 2016, a white woman who worked at the hotel was talking with Blackwell and told the plaintiff in reference to the pre-Civil War era of the South, where the woman was from, “Back then, I could have owned you,'' according to the suit.

“Ms. Blackwell was stunned and asked the employee to repeat what she said,'' the suit states.

The hotel's white guest relations manager was present and said, “Nothing, she didn't say anything,'' implying that the guest relations manager wanted to “make the problem go away,'' the suit states.

The final incident before Blackwell's resignation occurred in December 2019 when a white regular Chateau guest from a “notoriously wealthy family'' with a “history of misbehavior'' allegedly called Blackwell a “maniac'' in a dispute over his request for another room key and also allegedly asked, “What are we, in the ghetto?''

“Ms. Blackwell was extremely shaken by the guest's racist and sexist verbal attack...,'' the suit states.

Later that month, Blackwell was called into a meeting with Grandinetti, where the plaintiff wrote a resignation letter via her phone when it became apparent she was about to be fired, the suit states.

“Ms. Grandinetti said that they needed to terminate Ms. Blackwell because she wasn't professional in the interaction with the guest,'' the suit states. “Ms. Blackwell responded that it was very rare for her to grow agitated with a guest, but that it would have been very difficult for any person to remain calm in that interaction.''

Blackwell suffered severe emotional distress from working at the hotel and from her forced resignation, according to the suit. She also experienced ongoing stress and anxiety, sleep disruptions and weight gain as well as a lower self-esteem, the suit states.

Photo: Getty Images

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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