Veteran Latinx Workers at Chateau Marmont & Hilton Santa Monica Allege Discrimination & State Recall Law Violations

Entities tied to Chateau and Hilton operator Westmont Hospitality Group received millions in federal PPP money intended to bring back workers

LOS ANGELES–Joined by State Senator Maria Elena Durazo and allies, veteran Latinx workers from Hollywood’s famous Chateau Marmont rallied and presented legal complaints yesterday alleging that their employer violated SB-93, the state return-to-work law, by failing to rehire them in order of their seniority and, in one case, that the Chateau Marmont also violated California anti-discrimination law.

State Senator Maria Elena Durazo addresses workers outside the Chateau Marmont

Another worker who worked as a housekeeping inspector at the Hilton Santa Monica Hotel & Suites for almost 30 years also filed a SB-93 complaint yesterday against the operator of her hotel, Westmont Hospitality Group.

Before they were laid off at the start of the pandemic, alongside more than 200 of their coworkers, Martha Moran worked as a housekeeper for more than 33 years and Jesus Moreno worked as a gardener for nearly 20 years at the Chateau Marmont. Yet they both allege that since SB-93 went into effect, Chateau Marmont has unlawfully contracted out room cleaning and gardening work to brand-new agency workers without first offering Moran or Moreno those open positions, as the new state law requires. Of the 50 workers with the longest tenures at Chateau Marmont prior to the layoffs, approximately 46 were Latinx.

“In February, Chateau managers called me to a meeting and told me I was going back to work in a few weeks. But nothing happened. Two weeks ago, Chateau managers called me for another meeting and again they told me I would be going back to work in a few weeks. But I have no reason to believe them this time. I feel like management at Chateau Marmont aren’t respecting my seniority or my humanity, and I say it’s unfair,” said Moran, who had worked as a housekeeper at Chateau Marmont since 1986.

In a letter to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, veteran Chateau Marmont employee Jesus Moreno alleged that shortly after the pandemic layoffs, the hotel rehired a less experienced gardener who was white, U.S.-born, and significantly younger than Moreno, who is a 58-year-old Latino man from Mexico. Moreno alleges that he was discriminated against in rehiring at least in part because of his race, national origin, and age.

“Latinos like Martha and me have the most seniority in almost every department in the hotel, but most of us still haven’t been called us back to our jobs,” said Moreno. “We’ve worked here longer than almost everyone, and we deserve to be respected.”

Hilton Santa Monica Hotel & Suites worker Elba Hernandez also filed a claim yesterday under SB-93. She alleges that she lost wages and benefits because the hotel failed to offer her positions for which she was qualified and had the most seniority. Instead, she claims the hotel hired an employee with no prior experience there to perform her work. While Hernandez has returned to work part-time, the company has still not returned her to the full-time position inspecting rooms she previously performed for nearly three decades.

Entities tied to both Chateau Marmont and Hilton Santa Monica have received millions from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, a program intended to help small businesses retain workers. Chateau Marmont received a $1.95 million PPP loan in February 2021, while affiliates of Westmont Hospitality Group received $34 million from the PPP. UNITE HERE Local 11 has asked the Small Business Administration to investigate whether these funds have been spent on payroll costs as intended by Congress, and whether Westmont exceeded the SBA’s PPP limit of $20 million per corporate group.

In April 2021, Senator Maria Elena Durazo led the state Senate and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher and Assemblyman Ash Kalra led the Assembly to pass SB-93 to protect the jobs of hospitality workers who were laid off during the pandemic. The law aims to protect some of the most veteran and vulnerable workers of color in the hospitality and building services industries by establishing a legal right to return to jobs that many have held for years. As a result of the law, more than 700,000 hotel, event center, airport concession, and building services workers in California now have the right to return to their jobs as the pandemic subsides.

“When we passed SB-93 earlier this year, experiences like what Jesus and Martha describe were central to the legislative debate,” said Senator Maria Elena Durazo (SD 24) standing with the workers outside the Chateau Marmont along with student and community allies, Reverend Walter Contreras of the Black-Brown Clergy Committee, and Reverend Gary Williams of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church and a board member of CLUE, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice. “Now, laid-off workers have the right to return to their pre-pandemic jobs and we expect this hotel—and every affected employer in the state—to respect that right. I am proud to join these brave workers standing up to demand that SB-93 is followed and enforced.”