Six former and current female employees are suing the iconic Plaza Hotel in New York City. Court documents cite male senior management and employees detailed and startling sexual misconduct and assault. The women argue they were forced to endure a barrage of egregious and unwanted sexual behavior from their superiors and employees while the hotel’s management turned a blind eye, shamed the women, and retaliated with suspension in some incidents. “While patrons enjoy the iconic culture of The Plaza, many of its female employees are forced to endure a culture of a different type – rape culture,” states the suit. The women are seeking unspecified damages. Hotel Management, Elliot Mest, discloses the complaint.
Much of the allegations center around the hotel’s bar, the “Palm Court.”
The Plaza Hotel on 5th Avenue in New York City is being sued by six current and former female employees who allege in court documents that they were subjected to “outrageous and incessant sexual harassment and assault by senior management and their male counterparts” while working at the property.
The 50-page complaint filed in state court and accuses management and owners of the Plaza of “normalizing and trivializing sexual assault and abuse.” The plaintiffs consist of four current employees and two former employees who are seeking monetary damages from the Sahara Group, owners of the hotel, and the property’s management company, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.
Among the accusations are allegations that a manager followed an employee into a coat check closet multiple times while forcing himself on her. A common thread in the allegations are a menagerie of unwelcome sexually explicit comments the plaintiffs claim to have endured on multiple occasions, comments that one plaintiff called “egregious and incessant.” She also claims she was “physically grabbed and touched” without her consent.
The lawsuit claims that management at the Plaza ignored formal complaints about harassment.
“At Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, the safety and welfare of our guests and staff is always our highest priority. Any attempt at harassment or discrimination toward our colleagues and guests has not and never will be tolerated,” a spokeswoman for the company that owns The Plaza said in a statement to the New York Daily News. “We take all claims of harassment or discrimination seriously, take appropriate remedial action where warranted, and do not retaliate against any staff member who raises a claim of harassment or discrimination in good faith.”
Sexual harassment in workplaces remains an issue, and a report from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2015 found that more than half of sexual assault allegations result in no charges. A 1992 survey from Langer Research found that 72 percent of people who experience sexual harassment ultimately do not report it to their employer, a number that was found to be nearly identical in a 2013 Huffington Post poll (75 percent). Additionally, complaints from men regarding sexual harassment are on the rise, with 17 percent of all complaints fielded by the EEOC coming from men in 2015 compared to just 8 percent in 1992.
Today, sexual harassment is typically more subtle than what is being alleged at the Plaza. Lawyer, municipal judge and HOTEL MANAGEMENT columnist Karen Morris penned a story earlier this year about a female plaintiff at a Marriott property who claimed she was fired in retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment from co-workers and supervisors. The takeaway for employers is to stay vigilant and follow up on reports of inappropriate behavior, otherwise they are unlikely to subside.