Jermaine Massey was on a phone call with his mother at a DoubleTree by Hilton last year when things went seriously wrong.
In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday (October 8), Massey, who is Black, claimed he was falsely arrested and discriminated against because of his race when he was a guest at the Portland, OR, hotel on December 22, 2018, CNN reports.
While he was on the phone, hotel security “interrupted him, demanding to know if he was a guest.”
“When Mr. Massey replied that he was, the guard persisted, demanding further proof, then calling him a ‘security threat’ and alerting the hotel manager, who called Portland Police,” his attorneys said, according to CNN.
Massey recorded the ordeal, and in the video he could be heard asking the guard, “But why? But I’m staying here.”
“Not anymore,” the security guard replied, CNN reported at the time.
Even after presenting his room number and the key-card envelope with a date written on it, police informed him he’d be arrested for trespassing if he did not leave, according to the lawsuit.
His attorneys said, “the police escorted Mr. Massey to his room to gather his personal belongings, and then led him out of the hotel in full view of other guests.”
Although he had a room, the police would not allow him to freely move about the hotel unless he was with “police escort and under police restraint.”
On December 29, 2018, DoubleTree Portland tweeted, “We have terminated the employment of the two men involved in the mistreatment of Mr. Massey. Their actions were inconsistent with our standards & values. We reiterate our sincere apology for what he endured & will work with diversity experts to ensure this never happens again.”
The lawsuit, which seeks $3 million in damages, states that since the incident, Massey, a former employee of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI, “continues to suffer, and will in the future suffer from embarrassment, frustration, anger, humiliation, a sense of increased vulnerability, and feelings of racial stigmatization.”
It also states that Massey plans to amend the claim for punitive damages to a figure to be determined by a jury of up to $7 million, CNN reports.
“We are a place of public accommodation and place a strong emphasis on diversity and inclusion,” Doubletree by Hilton Portland’s general manager said in a statement in response to the lawsuit, adding, “and our hotel does not discriminate against any individual or group.”
Since the December 2018 incident, WMK Management LLC, which owns Doubletree by Hilton, has made diversity, equity and inclusion training mandatory for employees, the general manager of the hotel management company in Portland, Sami Qureshi, said in a statement, CNN reports.
“Hilton has zero tolerance for racism and is committed to providing a welcoming environment for all guests,” Hilton Hotels said in a statement.
“Following the incident in December 2018, Hilton accelerated scheduled training for all franchise properties globally and worked with the DoubleTree by Hilton Portland, Oregon, an independently owned and operated property, to ensure their employees have completed the diversity and unconscious bias training.”