Discrimination suit filed by evicted hotel guest reinstated
A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit filed by an evicted Arab hotel guest, stating his version of an incident with a pool attendant was sufficient to establish a prima facie case of racial discrimination.
The hotel and guest presented starkly different accounts. Rami Ziyadat said he was visiting the Westin Fort Lauderdale hotel with his fiancée when, as he left its pool, the towel attendant stared at him, according to Tuesday’s ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta in Rami Ziyadat v. DiamondRock Hospitality Co., d.b.a. The Westin Beach Resort Fort Lauderdale.
Mr. Ziyadat said the attendant seemed to be looking at his tattoo, which included faded Arabic letters and a chain encircling his bicep. He said the attendee said, “You don’t look like you belong here. What are you doing here?”
Mr. Ziyadat said when he told her that he and his fiancée were hotel guests and asked what she meant by her question, she responded she was calling security.
The towel attendant said Mr. Ziyadat was engaging in inappropriate behavior in children’s presence – including trying to remove his girlfriend’s bikini top, using profane language, and vomiting in the pool, according to the ruling.
Mr. Ziyadat said after he and his fiancée left the pool, he told a manager what happened.
After they returned to their room, the manager and head of security appeared and told them they were being evicted for inappropriate behavior and violating hotel policy, and refused to reimburse them for their remaining planned stay.
Mr. Ziyadat filed suit against the hotel in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, charging discrimination in violation of a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 that prohibits racial discrimination in contracting.
The district court dismissed the case, on the basis that even if Mr. Ziyadat had sufficiently alleged the towel attendant mistreated him because of his race, he had not alleged her racial animus caused his eviction.
The ruling was overturned by a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel. Mr. Ziyadat “hasn’t adequately alleged direct discrimination” but “a plausible circumstantial case” of it, the ruling said.
“We hold that, at this stage of the proceedings, Ziyadat has alleged intentional racial discrimination by the towel attendant sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss,” it said, in vacating the lower court ruling and remanding the case for further proceedings.
A hotel attorney had no comment while plaintiff attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.