|By Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 6, 2004 - Twelve former employees of Atlanta-based InTown Suites are suing the hotel company, alleging they were fired or forced to quit because of their race.
The workers --- 11 African-Americans and one worker of Middle Eastern ancestry --- claim that the hotelier harassed or dismissed them because they did not fit InTown's "image" or were too sympathetic to minority guests, according to the lawsuit, which was filed recently in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.
The 12, all of whom worked at Atlanta-area InTown properties between May 2002 and March 2003, are seeking monetary damages, including back pay, benefits and overtime compensation, said Edward Buckley, one of their attorneys.
A representative of InTown, which operates 120 extended-stay hotels in 20 states, called the lawsuit frivolous and groundless.
"It is filled with unfounded accusations in an effort to besmirch InTown's reputation," said Chief Financial Officer Bill Brewer, adding that the company saw the lawsuit for the first time Tuesday. "It is lacking in merit. InTown does not and has not discriminated against any of these individuals."
The plaintiffs range in skill from property managers to district manager, Buckley said.
Many of the managers had worked for Suburban Lodges, another Atlanta extended-stay chain, before that company's merger with InTown in May 2002, the lawsuit said.
The managers, in their lawsuit, said their duties changed after that merger to include maid and maintenance work, nonexempt shifts without overtime, and transfers without notice.
The workers also accused the company of using code words to categorize minorities looking for jobs and eliminating applicants based on ethnic-sounding names on resumes or speech patterns during telephone calls that suggest the caller is not white.
The 12 plaintiffs did not file complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said attorney Doug Kertscher, who also represents the former employees.
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(c) 2004, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.