Starwood Learns a Hidden Camera is Worth $3 Million

Last Updated Mar 12, 2010 2:27 PM EST

A baker for the Westin Times Square Hotel was awarded $3 million when a federal court ruled that Starwood Hotels & Resorts was guilty of unlawful retaliation when it installed a spy camera at his workstation. Instead of taking Moises Mendez's complaints of ethnic slurs and threats seriously and dealing with them by education or sensitivity training, management at the Westin decided on a hidden camera placed at his workstation without Mendez' knowledge, proving the company was more interested in monitoring a complaining employee rather than outing nasty coworkers.

According to NY1:

The Ecuadorian immigrant says derogatory comments, sabotage and threats had been simmering since he started working at the Westin in 2003. Documents show that Mendez repeatedly begged the Westin's human resources department for help, saying his health was suffering.

Mendez says when the hotel did nothing he complained to the state's Division of Human Rights. In February 2008, he says the agency said he could sue the Westin. Mendez' attorney says the next month, a co-worker discovered the camera which became part of his lawsuit.

On Wednesday, a jury awarded him $3 million but not on his discrimination and harassment complaint. Instead, it found the Westin had retaliated against him for lodging the complaint in the first place.

I've always known that Human Resources is basically for the corporation rather than employees, but I'm always amazed at how companies can easily label someone a troublemaker rather than protect themselves from further legal wrangling. Starwood wasted precious time and energy filming a baker without his knowledge instead of offering education to its employees or emphasizing that ethnic slurs or remarks were not part of their corporate culture and banned from use.

Aside from the cost factor, it's also the right thing to do. In this country we rarely hold corporations to the same standards as individuals, but we should. And if doing the right thing isn't as appealing because it might cost something -- realize that, at least in Mendez's case, it will cost much more later.


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