PRESS RELEASE: Fifth woman working at an Aimbridge-operated hotel files state sexual harassment allegations

Prominent Californians urge new Aimbridge CEO in his first week to “play a leading role” in resolving “allegations of sexual harassment and ineffective management”

Los Angeles: The fifth woman in less than a month has broken her silence by alleging she experienced sexual harassment working at an Aimbridge-operated hotel.

Marta Vela, a houseperson at the Hampton Inn in Santa Monica, sent a complaint letter to the California Civil Rights Department alleging that a manager made what she understood to be a sexual proposition when he invited her to his house when they were alone in his office, telling her he wouldn’t say anything if she didn’t say anything. A year later, she alleges, she reported sexual harassment from a different manager to Aimbridge HR, but they apparently refused to investigate or take any action she was aware of in response to her complaints. She asked management to switch her to the graveyard shift so she could avoid the manager’s harassment, only to have him start arriving to work an hour early and continue harassing her.

“I want to return to my normal job. Working overnight has taken a toll on my health and quality of life,” says Vela in her complaint letter. “But more than anything, I want to feel safe at work, and I want to feel like my employer is taking my complaints seriously. That is what every worker deserves.”

Hotel workers protest sexual harassment complaints outside the Aimbridge-operated Sheraton Park hotel in Anaheim 2024-03-13

Hotel workers have called a boycott against nine Southern California hotels operated by Aimbridge Hospitality, which they have dubbed “Shamebridge.”

Today a group of more than forty prominent Californians, including State Senator Maria Elena Durazo and co-founder of the United Farm Workers Dolores Huerta, sent a letter to Aimbridge’s new CEO Craig Smith “to raise concerns regarding a matter of urgent importance on which we hope you will play a leading role: Women workers have brought forward allegations of sexual harassment and ineffective management at multiple Aimbridge-operated properties in Southern California.”

“These incidents form what appears to be a pattern of managers at Aimbridge properties failing to adequately ensure full respect for women workers’ rights,” their letter continues. “As someone who is only now joining Aimbridge’s leadership, we are not suggesting that you are responsible for or would condone this conduct. But it clearly presents a critical challenge to your early leadership and an opportunity to course correct.”

Vela’s former coworker Maritza Villeda at the Aimbridge-operated Hampton Inn Santa Monica was the first Aimbridge woman to break her silence last month. She submitted her own letter to the state Civil Rights Department alleging that after she complained about persistent sexual harassment to hotel management, the hotel failed to respond appropriately to her complaints and instead retaliated against her by terminating her.

Earlier this month, three women workers from the Aimbridge-operated Sheraton Park Anaheim each submitted complaints to the California Civil Rights Department, alleging that their employer failed to respond appropriately to their complaints of sexual harassment. One week later, hundreds of hotel workers from Anaheim, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Long Beach gathered outside the Sheraton Park for a protest against sexual harassment during the Natural Products Expo West, which hosted 70,000 convention attendees to the city.

Hotel workers use an 8-foot tall puppet of a woman with a picket sign to protest sexual harassment complaints outside the Aimbridge-operated Sheraton Park Anaheim 2024-03-13.

Workers at a third hotel, which was operated by Aimbridge until the operator was replaced earlier this year, filed a pending class action lawsuit against an Aimbridge subsidiary alleging violations of the panic button and other worker safety provisions of the Los Angeles Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance. A primary purpose of this ordinance is to help protect workers from sexual assault in the workplace.

Craig Smith started as CEO of Aimbridge Hospitality on March 18. Aimbridge is the world’s largest third-party hotel operator, owned by Advent International.