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The Willard Intercontinental Hotel violates DC Human Rights Act

The DC Office of Human Rights (OHR) reaffirmed that the Willard InterContinental Hotel forced a gay assistant chef out of his job after he complained that he was repeatedly subjected to anti-gay harassment by co-workers and supervisors.

After reviewing more than 50 pages of briefing by the Willard Hotel, the OHC reaffirmed their December 17 Determination of Probable cause, finding that DC resident Alberto Vega, 43, was subjected to a hostile work environment because of his sexual orientation and was terminated from his job in August 2013.

The OHR finding says the hotel’s alleged actions against Vega violated the DC Human Rights Act, which, among other things, bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Joseph, Greenwald & Laake attorney Brian Markovitz represents Vega and says, “It is very disappointing that hotel management failed to properly investigate Vega’s reports of harassment on the job. I hope that the hotel will finally admit what happened and take the proper steps to make amends. But frankly given their prior actions, I’m not overly optimistic.”

Investigators at the Office of Human Rights quickly substantiated Mr. Vega’s claims through interviewing multiple witnesses—witnesses that the hotel did not contact.

The InterContinental Hotels Group, which owns the Willard and dozens of other hotels in the U.S. and abroad, received a perfect score of 100 in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, which rates Fortune 500 companies on their personnel policies affecting LGBT employees.

“Possibly the worst thing for Mr. Vega wasn’t the terrible treatment he received from the lower-level workers,” Markovitz said. “It was the Willard’s response. Management was supposed to protect Mr. Vega for bravely coming forward. I certainly hope that it’s not that they don’t care about the LGBT community, but the longer this goes on, the more you have to wonder.”

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