The Chateau Marmont has for years now cemented itself as the dwelling place for the stars. The famous hotel and restaurant has in the past been favored by the likes of old Hollywood stars and is currently the location for Jay-Z’s and Beyonce’s star-studded annual post-oscars party.
Yet, behind the Chateau Marmont’s long years of glitz and glamor lies allegations from numerous employees of racial discrimination and sexual harassment.
The Chateau Marmont has recently laid off 248 employees, without any severance packages or extended health insurance. Management points to COVID-19 as the only factor for this decision, yet, many past and current employees see it truly as an excuse to block their attempts from unionizing after years of feeling unprotected.
After the huge layoff, The Hollywood Reporter stepped in to interview employees from housekeeping, security, front desk and even those in the corporate level. These employees pinpoint to the resignation of long tenured HR director Carol O’Brien in 2013 as a turning point in the way allegations have been handled. After O’Brien’s departure HR was left only with junior level staffers, whose limited experience and close relationship with the managing directors brought only ineffectiveness and corruption.
Employees claim to constantly witness and face racial discrimination in the workplace but most find that there is no safe way to complain. For instance, multiple latino kitchen workers claim to have been thrown ethnic slurs by their own supervisor. Yet, none felt they could report it due to fear of potential retaliation, since everyone knew that the “[the manage structure] was too close to HR]. Another instance of racial discrimination occurred when the Managing director, Amanda Grandinetti, who has been accused of making racially insensitive comments, told her favored Black employee “You’re my blackie” and explained to that employee that instead of saying “Ok” they should instead say “Yes, Ammasa,” which is a reference to a slave master.
Many employees also have noticed that promotion opportunities and highly visible roles are given mainly to white employees. Rosemary West, a white sommelier and manager who worked at the restaurant for six years says the “leadership operates in a perpetual state of racism and unconscious bias.The hotel has been allowed to dismiss BIPOC concerns for years as there is no HR department. Fear of retaliation was an absolute concern at the property. Many qualified personnel were passed over for promotions to be filled by white personnel.”
Employees also allege that they had to face the horrors of sexual harassment without any way to safely report it. For Sonia Molina Sanchez, a housekeeper at the Chateau for over a decade, she had to endure cleaning a room while a male guest exposed himself to her and began pleasuring himself. Sanchez immediately reported the incident to management believing that they would ban him from the hotel. However, management did nothing and allowed the guest to continue to visit. Sanchez goes on to explain that “[Management] made me believe that they were going to deal with it, but they didn’t do anything. They made me feel unsafe at work. Every time I saw him, I was reliving my experience. I felt abused again.” Another account deals with Black employee Adrian Jules, who faced similar problems with management’s lack of assistance after he complained that an inebriated white female co-worker had sent him sexually explicit text messages. Jules has gone on to hire counsel and intents to file an employment discrimination suit stating, “You have to think, as a man, and a Black man specifically, if you get a message like that, you’re immediately terrified. What would have happened had I sent text messages like that to her?” He adds, “You do what the employee handbook tells you to do, and nobody listens.”
Even the owner of the Chateau Marmont has not escaped sexual harassment allegations. Andre Balazs, one to the most well know hoteliers in the world has been accused on indecency and of sexual harassment by his own staff. Multiple employees have told The Hollywood Reporter that while Balazs was inebriated he has inappropriately touched them at work or during company events.
In regard to the allegation directed against himself, Balazs himself has made a statement to The Hollywood Reported saying “This collection of allegations of supposed personal misconduct on my part is simply false. It’s not who I am.” In regard to the other allegations The Chateau’s law firm, Pillsbury comments the “workplace issues are regularly raised, as at any business, and swiftly investigated and addressed,” and that a “whistleblower line is in place for employees to report issues or concerns directly to outside integrity counsel.”
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