Four Filipino workers have filed a lawsuit against the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, claiming the hotel promised them training and cultural immersion, but instead had them work long hours doing menial jobs for low pay.
The four plaintiffs — Jann Descanzo, Veronica Bondoc, Glen Segundino and Marianne Ponio – studied tourism in the Philippines and came to the United States to learn more about the hospitality industry. They each paid more than $3,000 in travel costs and recruitment fees.
According to the lawsuit, the hotel used a type of visa similar to an internship program, but treated them like normal workers to avoid paying travel costs and other fees.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys argue that the hotel should have been using a different immigrant work program, the H-2B visa, to recruit the workers. This program would have covered their travel costs.
The suit claims the hotel didn’t keep their promise of providing training about different aspects of the American hospitality industry. The workers were supposed to work in five different parts of the hotel, but were typically stuck in only a few.
The suit additionally alleges that the workers were forced to work up to 60 hours a week and had to do less desirable jobs than other employees. When they complained about the hotel not following the internship plans that they had signed up for, supervisors called them slow and lazy- and even threatened to deport them.
“This conduct is a blatant, greed-driven and illegal perversion of this country’s immigration laws,” said David Seligman, executive director of Towards Justice, a Denver-based nonprofit law firm.
Grand America Hotel executives didn’t immediately respond to an email and phone message seeking a comment about the lawsuit.
The hotel opened a year before the 2002 Winter Olympics and is considered one of the most extravagant hotels in Utah.