Dominique Hill and Irving Smith Jr. had good jobs.
Last year, Hill worked as a bartender at P.F. Chang’s in Tysons Corner and Smith had recently been promoted to bartender at Wildfire grill, also in Tysons. Each had more than a decade of experience working in restaurants and was making $700 to $900 a week.
But last summer both of them walked away from their jobs for a chance at something better: the opportunity to work at BLT Prime, the steakhouse in the luxury Trump International Hotel, Washington D.C.
The couple said they soon discovered their hopes were misplaced. In a civil complaint filed Wednesday morning in D.C. Superior Court, Hill, a former BLT employee, and Smith, a current one, allege that the Trump Organization and hotel managing director Mickael Damelincourt saw to it that the restaurant routinely steered black employees to less lucrative shifts and subjected them to discriminatory behavior by other staff and by guests. The two men are joined in the case by another former BLT employee, JaNette Sturdivant.
Hill said he was the first bartender the restaurant hired last summer, before the hotel opened, but was almost exclusively given only lunch shifts.
“Some days I would just stand there all day long and have no customers,” he said. He routinely made $300 to $400 for a 30- to 35-hour workweek at BLT. He claims only four black employees still work at BLT after the hotel opened with 15 or more.
Smith, who works as a BLT server, said he was demoted to assistant server early on and rarely given prime shifts, where weekly earnings averaged $600 to $1,500 and which allegedly went instead to newly hired white and Latino employees.
“They started hiring all these people and instead of putting them on day shifts they was giving them night shifts and keeping us on day shift. Next thing I know, within the month all the black people were on the day shift,” he said.
In a statement, the Trump Organization, which runs the hotel, called the allegations “utterly baseless,” particularly because “the Hotel never employed these individuals.”
“Rather, the plaintiffs worked for a third-party restaurant company that is solely responsible for the direction, supervision, and management of its own employees. In short, this lawsuit appears to be nothing more than a desperate, politically-motivated publicity stunt. We look forward to litigating this matter,” said Amanda Miller, a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, in a statement.
ESquared Hospitality, which operates the restaurant, said it “wholeheartedly” disputed the allegations and that the employees “did not previously voice or file complaints through any of the proper channels.”
“Had they done so, BLT Prime would have immediately taken the alleged complaints seriously and investigated them to the fullest extent and would have taken appropriate action where warranted,” the company said.
SOURCE: Jonathan O’Connell
The Washington Post