The Portland law firm of Kafoury & McDougal filed suit Tuesday on behalf of Jermaine Massey against Hilton Hotels and the DoubleTree Hilton in Portland, Oregon, for $3 million, indicating that they will amend to request $7 million in punitive damages.
On December 22, 2018, Jermaine Massey, an African American, was on the phone with his mother on the East Coast from a quiet corner of the lobby of Hilton’s DoubleTree Hotel in Portland, when 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. The police escorted Massey to his room to gather his personal belongings, and then led him out of the hotel in view of other guests.
After checking in at another hotel, Massey posted his thoughts on the events, and his video went viral.
The law firm of Kafoury & McDougal issued press releases demanding that Hilton explain why Massey was approached by security, why he was interrogated, and why in a Hilton press release he was labeled a “threat to security.” DoubleTree Hilton’s statements first spoke of their duty to maintain the safety of their guests, then criticized their employees, and finally announced that the security guard and manager had been fired.
The firm received stories from other African Americans about racist treatment at Hilton hotels documented prior to the incident involving Massey.
Richard Willock, an African American baseball coach, and business owner was staying at a Hilton’s Hampton Inn in Nashville, Tennessee, with his teenage son, a major league baseball prospect. Willock was approached in the lobby by hotel staff and a security guard, who demanded that he prove he was a guest at a hotel. After he gave his room number, he asked why, out of everyone in the lobby, he had been singled out. The hotel employee told the security guard she wanted Willock removed from the premises, then called the police.
Al Law, an African American software executive, was a registered guest at a Hilton in Richmond, Virginia, sitting in the hotel lobby waiting for a business colleague, when a security guard demanded that he prove that he “belonged there.” The security guard did not approach White patrons and guests sitting nearby.
Delores Corbett, an African American mother of two and business owner, was staying with her family at the Wilson, North Carolina, Hampton by Hilton, to attend celebrations of the legacy of her mother-in-law, Fannie Corbett, a prominent civil rights activist. After Corbett sought to correct an error in her bill, the hotel staff directed the police to remove her and her family from the hotel, and the officers followed the family in a patrol car as they drove away.
E.D. Mondaine, President of the Portland chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., attempted to work on discrimination issues with DoubleTree and with Hilton. He said while DoubleTree took some steps that the N.A.A.C.P. had requested, “Hilton Hotels completely rebuffed our attempts to discuss national policy with them, insisting that we speak only to the local franchise.”
Attorney Jason Kafoury said, “Mr. Massey hopes to learn what policies of Hilton have led to these events, what Hilton has done in response to such events, and will ask the jury to punish Hilton as an example to other hotels who may be tempted to encourage or tolerate discrimination at their places of business.”