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Melrose Hotel, Berwind Property Group, to Pay $800,000 to Settle National Origin Bias Suit by EEOC

Employers Charged with Imposing English-Only Rule, Harassing Hispanics and Forcing Out Some Employees After New Company Took Over Hotel

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The former Melrose Hotel New York and Berwind Property Group, Ltd. (Berwind) will pay $800,000 for national origin discrimination against Hispanic employees and take substantial steps to prevent future workplace bias as part of a major litigation settlement announced today by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC's lawsuit charged the companies with subjecting Hispanic employees to a hostile work environment; subjecting Hispanic employees to an English-only rule requiring them to speak only English at all times, including while on breaks; firing Hispanic employees; and retaliating against employees for complaining of discrimination. The Melrose Hotel New York was a luxury hotel located on Manhattan's Upper East Side until it closed in July 2005. Berwind is a real estate management company located in Philadelphia.

A consent decree resolving the case (Civil Action No. CV-04-7514), was filed today with Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Pursuant to the consent decree, the companies will pay $800,000 in damages to 13 former employees of the hotel.

The consent decree also prohibits the companies from maintaining an English-only rule for employees and requires them to amend and reissue their non-discrimination policy, train employees and managers in equal employment law, and provide periodic reports to the EEOC concerning any new discrimination complaints. The suit was filed by the EEOC on September 23, 2004, after the agency first attempted to reach a voluntary, pre-litigation settlement.

"The discriminatory practices at the Melrose Hotel New York affected a large number of Hispanic employees," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Robert D. Rose. "This resolution will fairly compensate the victims of that discrimination and put protective measures in place to prevent further discrimination."

Spencer H. Lewis, EEOC's New York District Director, added, "In this diverse city of New York, as well as across the nation, employers should be acutely aware that all employees, including Hispanics, must be treated equally without regard to their national origin. This settlement confirms that EEOC will hold employers to the requirements of the law."

The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces the nation's anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

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