A 40-year-old black former events server sued the Chateau Marmont hotel Wednesday, alleging she was the victim of racial discrimination and sexual harassment while working at the Hollywood establishment before being laid off in 2020.
Thomasina Gross’ Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges race discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation and failure to prevent discrimination and harassment. She seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
A Chateau Marmont representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
Located at 8221 Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles, Chateau Marmont is just few dozen feet away from the West Hollywood border.
Gross was hired as an events server at the iconic hotel in October 2017 and hoped to be promoted, but despite having extensive experience, she was repeatedly passed over for positions in favor of less qualified white applicants, including one she trained, the suit states.
Because events hours were irregular, Gross tried to obtain shifts filling in for positions in the hotel’s restaurant, the suit states. She notified the restaurant’s general manager about her availability, her preparedness for various jobs and her desire to work additional hours, the suit states.
Through these regular inquiries, Gross sometimes obtained shifts taking guest reservations over the phone, assisting with in-room dining service, or working outside in the hotel driveway to turn away walk-ins during busier seasons, the suit states.
Gross also asked for shifts as a restaurant server, a highly coveted position because of its potential for substantial tips, but she was never granted any of those opportunities, the suit states.
But despite being told there were never any restaurant openings, Gross saw that new servers, all of whom were white, continued to be hired, the suit states.
In her work, Gross received unwanted touching from guests on a near- daily basis, the suit states. Events were frequently overcrowded, which made food scarcer and caused guests to become more physically aggressive, often grabbing the plaintiff by her shoulders or arms, pulling her toward them, blocking her way and physically intimidating her or invading her personal space, the suit states.
One guest ordered Gross to get on her knees to pick up spilled food on the carpet, leering at her while she did so, according to the suit.
Gross proposed a specific step Chateau Marmont could take to prevent the unwanted touching, but management rejected her suggestion, the suit alleges.
“The solution that Ms. Gross’ managers most frequently offered was simply to tell Ms. Gross to avoid problem guests,” the suit states.
Gross continued to work as an events server until she was laid off along with about 240 other Chateau Marmont employees in March when the hotel shut down due to the coronavirus, the suit states.
Hotel owner Andre Balazs announced in July that he planned to turn the hotel into a private timeshare.
Balazs purchased and restored the Chateau Marmont in 1990, reportedly paying $12 million for the 63-room hotel built in 1929.
In 1999, Balazs transformed a retirement home just a few blocks west on Sunset Boulevard into the trendy Standard Hotel. Balazs sold his ownership in the Standard in 2007. The hotel closed its doors permanently on Jan. 22.