UPDATE (Thursday, Oct. 10 at 8:09 a.m. PT) — A black hotel guest who was kicked out of the Hilton DoubleTree in Portland last year while making a call on his cellphone is suing the hotel for the incident.
Jermaine Massey’s attorneys filed the $10 million lawsuit Tuesday.
In December 2018, Massey was on the phone with his mother when hotel security interrupted him, demanding to know if he was a guest. He said he was, but the security guard continued to demand proof, including asking to see his room key.
According to the lawsuit, the security guard told Massey he was “loitering” and that he was a risk to the safety and security of hotel guests. Eventually the hotel manager called Portland Police who then escorted Massey out of the hotel.
Massey was not arrested and the police officer who responded to the incident offered to drive him to another hotel when DoubleTree staff evicted him from his room.
After checking into another hotel, Massey posted a video on social media of his interactions with DoubleTree security staff. Soon after, his story went viral.
A week later, DoubleTree released a statement saying it had fired the security guard and hotel manager involved.
“Our hotel is a place of hospitality, and their actions were inconsistent with our standards and values,” the statement read.
In response to the lawsuit, Hilton Hotels said it has “zero tolerance for racism and is committed to providing a welcoming environment for all guests.”
Hilton Hotels also said the Portland DoubleTree franchise is independently owned and operated by a company called WMK Management.
"We are committed to providing a welcoming environment to everyone who visits our property," Sami Qureshi, area general manager of WMK, said Thursday in a statement to OPB. "Since the incident last year, we have conveyed our deepest apologies to Mr. Massey and have reached out to him and his lawyers to address his experience."
Following the incident in December, Hilton Hotels worked with the Portland DoubleTree to ensure its employees completed a diversity and unconscious bias training, according to a statement.
Qureshi said he could not comment further on the litigation, but he said, "we want to assure those who have followed this situation that it is our intent to come to an amicable resolution with Mr. Massey without delay."
In a press release, Massey’s attorneys said they received numerous other complaints from African American people who had negative experiences at Hilton Hotels.
One example was Al Law, a black software executive, who was staying at a Hilton in Richmond, Virginia. Law was sitting in the hotel lobby waiting for a colleague when a security guard demanded that he prove that he “belonged there,” without asking the same of other white patrons.
"We’re very interested in finding out just how many complaints there have been,” said Greg Kafoury, one of Massey’s attorneys. “We expect to find out the extent of this kind of racial profiling and we want to see what Hilton has done about it, if anything.”
Kafoury said he hopes the case goes in front of a jury who chooses to “punish Hilton and make an example out of them and let other hotels know that it’s not OK to be targeting black people who happen to be in your lobby doing innocent things such as what happened to Mr. Massey."