State Claims Hilton Paid Woman Less Than Male Coworkers, Including Her Son

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New Jersey’s top prosecutor has accused Hilton of unlawful discrimination for paying a female Homewood Suites employee less than her male equivalents, including her son.

The complaint [PDF], filed by New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino, alleges that Hilton not only paid this woman less than her male co-workers, but then fired her for voicing her concern about this disparity.

According to the complaint, the defendant says all employees are eligible but not guaranteed annual pay increases starting on their one-year hire anniversary. The plaintiff started working at the hotel on Aug. 27, 2011 as a house person and hotel shuttle driver, making $8/hour. She received annual increases, with her salary changing to $8.20/hour on Aug. 27, 2012 and to $8.36/hour the year after.

But after she was hired, the lawsuit alleges, Homewood Suites hired six male employees, including her son, who performed the same housekeeping work, but at a starting wage of $9-$10 per hour.

When she worked shifts driving the hotel courtesy shuttle, she made the established driver rate of $10 per hour, but when she wasn’t needed as a driver and was assigned to housekeeping duties, she was paid the lower rate, while her male colleagues allegedly earned better wages.

According to the complaint, she approached her supervisor and the hotel’s general manager about the pay disparity. She had separate conversations with both, she says, saying she thought it unfair that her coworkers received $10 per hour whether they were driving the shuttle or cleaning.

Instead of addressing her concerns, the complaint states, “Defendant presented [her] with a termination letter stating, in part, ‘even though you are competent the fact is that your behavior is interfering with the positive performance and full engagement of the staff.’”

She filed a complaint with the DCR, which, after its own investigation, filed today’s lawsuit.

“The allegations in this case are troubling, and suggest that the ownership and management of this hotel are caught in a time warp,” said AG Porrino. “Employers have a duty under the law to treat male and female workers equally, and that most assuredly includes hourly wages. Here in the 21st Century, the notion of any employer – let alone one that is part of a national hotel chain – paying women less than men for the identical work is appalling, and cannot be allowed to stand.”

With this complaint, the state wants Hilton to cease and desist from engaging in discriminatory or retaliatory policies and practices against employees, and modify its policies and procedures as necessary, as well as submit to training and monitoring by DCR for three years.

DCR’s complaint also seeks remedial relief, including but not limited to back pay, front pay, lost benefits and interests, sufficient to make whole the plaintiff and to similarly situated employees of Homewood Suites for losses suffered as a result of discrimination against them as alleged in the complaint.

In addition, DCR wants compensatory damages for the plaintiff and other employees in her situation, “for emotional distress and mental pain and humiliation caused by Defendant’s discriminatory or retaliatory conduct.”