After spending New Year’s at Disney World with her toddler, Rosemarie Mohammed drove to West Palm Beach, Florida, to spend a few days with her family.
The magic of her days in the theme park quickly disappeared when workers at the Hampton Inn off Belvedere Road allegedly ordered the New York City woman and her daughter out of the hotel with the words: “We don’t want your kind here.”
In a lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court, Mohammed accuses Hilton Worldwide Holdings and the owners of the franchised inn of evicting her because they didn’t want a Muslim of Arab descent on the property.
“The Hampton Inn intentionally discriminated against Rosemarie because of her Muslim religion,” Fort Lauderdale attorney Yechezkel Rodal wrote in the lawsuit he filed for Mohammed. “The Hampton Inn wrongfully prohibited Rosemarie from finishing up the vacation she had paid for.”
A spokeswoman for the Chicago-based company that in June paid $9.6 million for the 105-room hotel said it doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits.
In a statement, Hilton said the company “has found multiple discrepancies between the facts alleged in the legal filing and our records.”
“Our aim is always to lead with hospitality and provide a great experience – every hotel, every guest, every time,” it said. “We have zero tolerance for discrimination and take any related claims very seriously.”
Mohammed, who travels regularly for work and is a Hilton Honors member, had no trouble checking into the Hampton Inn for her two-day stay, Rodal said.
After spending one night at the hotel, she left to take her 1-year-old daughter to a playground. While there, Hampton Inn workers called and said she had to pack up and leave, he said.
Knowing there were vacancies, Mohammed offered to switch rooms or pay extra to stay in the same room, Rodal said. The hotel worker refused. Eventually, the worker blurted out, “We don’t want your kind here,” and hung up the phone, he said.
When Mohammed called the corporate headquarters, booking agents offered to put her in another Hilton hotel. But, it was farther away from Palm Beach International Airport and Mohammed had an early-morning flight.
Finally, in frustration, she booked a room at a nearby hotel and flew home the next day.
But, Rodal said, the experience was unsettling for Mohammed. “She realized she’s going to have to explain to her little daughter one day that she’s going to be treated differently,” he said.
Hoping to get the hotel giant to change its behavior, Mohammed decided to file suit.
“It’s really not about the money,” Rodal said. “It’s to send a message that this is no longer acceptable and it shouldn’t be acceptable.”
It isn’t the first time Rodal has filed a discrimination suit against a South Florida hotel. In May, he sued The Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort on behalf of a Chicago man of Jordanian descent who had a similar experience.
Midway through an eight-day stay at the oceanfront hotel, Rami Ziyadat and his fiance were marched out by security after a worker noticed a tattoo on Ziyadat’s arm, Rodal said in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Fort Lauderdale.
Claiming there is no evidence that resort officials discriminated against Ziyadat, attorneys for the resort have asked a judge to throw out the lawsuit.
“It remains unclear how Ziyadat’s outward appearance caused the alleged treatment during an isolated incident, four days into his stay, if [his] features, complexion, and appearance were evident from check-in,” resort attorney Stephen Johnson wrote. “These facts fail to support the conclusory assertion that the alleged discrimination was based on race.”
Unfortunately, Rodal said, such discrimination does exist. “It’s so sad in this day and age,” he said.