A verdict was reached yesterday afternoon in Manhattan Federal Court, when a jury awarded US$3 million to Moises Mendez, a 46-year-old baker for Starwood Hotels. Mr. Mendez, an immigrant from Ecuador and a resident of Washington Heights, claimed he was tormented with vile taunts and even physically abused at work. He repeatedly filed complaints with the Human Resources Department at the Westin Hotel at Times Square (the “Westin Hotel”) about the alleged discrimination being committed against him at the hotel because of his Hispanic race and national origin of Ecuador.
What swayed the federal jury that found that Starwood Hotels unlawfully retaliated against Mr. Mendez, was when it secretly installed a hidden camera near his workstation in the kitchen of the Westin Hotel shortly after he filed written complaints. The jury awarded Mr. Mendez US$1 million for his emotional distress and pain and suffering, and US$2 million in punitive damages to punish Starwood for its unlawful actions.
After the trial, Mr. Mendez stated, “I put my faith in America’s system of justice, and I look forward to going back to work today.”
Ken Thompson, a partner at Thompson Wigdor & Gilly LLP and trial counsel for Mr. Mendez, commented: “It was outrageous for Starwood Hotels to install a hidden camera over Mr. Mendez’s workstation to retaliate against him because of his complaints of discrimination. This is America. And hopefully, this jury verdict will make it clear to all employers that they simply cannot retaliate against employees who complain about discrimination.”