Renowned Los Angeles hotel faces discrimination lawsuit

By Shanice Harris | Dec 13, 2016

LOS ANGELES – The Hotel Bel-Air is under investigation for allegedly discriminating against its workers after an extensive renovation and hiring drive.

The well-known hotel closed in 2009 for renovations, then reopened in 2011. At some point during the renovation process, the hotel’s workers accused Hotel Bel-Air of purportedly snubbing existing employees who were members of a union and hiring new employees during a hiring drive. The complaint alleges the employer did so because those employees supported the union and to discourage employees from engaging in union activities.

“The complaint also alleges that the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act by failing to recognize the union as the exclusive representative of its employees since it reopened and by making unilateral changes to their terms and condition of employment,"  Mori Pam Rubin, director of the Los Angeles branch of the National Labor Relations Board, told the Northern California Record. 

Jessica Kahanek, press secretary for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), told the Northern California Record that on July 29, the NLRB issued an unfair labor practices complaint against plaintiff [The Hotel Bel Air].

The existing employees were a part of a union, identified as United Here. According to court documents, United Here brought its complaints to the National Labor Relations Board. But, the Los Angeles branch of the organization filed a formal complaint against the hotel operators—Dorchest Collection—later on.

“The original charge that led to the July 2016 complaint was filed by a union [United Here] on Feb.15, 2012,” Kahanek told the Northern California Record.

The NLRB waited more than four years after the initial complaint filed by United Here. Because of the delay, the hotel filed a countersuit against Rubin. Hotel Bel-Air claimed that Rubin waited too long to bring the complaint forward.

According to court documents, “[Hotel Bel Air] seeks discovery regarding the reasons for the NLRB’s delay in filing the administrative complaint, as well as identification of other witnesses with such knowledge and any documents the board may use to support any contention that the delay was reasonable.”

The NLRB cited a related unfair labor case as its reason for the delay. In late October, U.S. District Judge Phillip S. Gutierrez dismissed the hotel’s lawsuit, stopping any attempt to block the investigation. The court maintains that it doesn’t have jurisdiction to influence the NLRB.

According to Kahanek and court documents on NLRB’s website, “Ultimately, whether or not the court has jurisdiction over this case is a matter for the district judge to decide. But for purposes of this discovery motion, the court finds the defendant’s arguments on this issue more persuasive than those of the plaintiffs.”

Gutierrez has not yet issued an order, but both parties are scheduled to meet in court soon on pending motions. Both will appear before the judge before an official investigation begins.

Hotel Bel-Air officials said they did not want to make a statement and United Here was unavailable for comment.

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