July 22, 2024 #1 Local News, Information and Event Source for the Century City/Westwood areas.

The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel face employment law violations

 

A lawyer representing three former/current Beverly Hills Hotel employees urged a jury to award up to $12.5 million to his clients. (Thinkstock)
A lawyer representing three former/current Beverly Hills Hotel employees urged a jury to award up to $12.5 million to his clients. (Thinkstock)

A lawyer representing two former and one current employee of the Beverly Hills Hotel urged a jury today to collectively award up to $12.5 million to his clients, saying they suffered employment law violations ranging from sexual battery to discrimination based on their gender and ethnic background.

Lawyer Rob Hennig said the Los Angeles Superior Court jury also should find that the hotel and its former general manager, Alberto del Hoyo, acted with malice toward Tim Dupree, Nino O’Brien and Wendy Giron. Such a finding could result in an award of punitive damages to the trio.

Quoting a line from the Harry Potter films, Hennig said, “It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.”

Defense attorney Arch Stokes, in his closing argument, chided Hennig for using a quote from a “fantasy movie and book.” He said the case against the hotel and del Hoyo is unfounded and that the plaintiffs filed suit to enrich themselves.

“This is a scam of mudslinging of a great hotelier and a great hotel for the purpose of getting money,” Stokes said.

O’Brien, who is Indian-Irish, is the only remaining plaintiff who works at the hotel, where he is a wine expert in the renowned Polo Lounge. He testified that his former boss, Micah Paloff, told him in April 2011 that he was being fired, then later told him it was a practical joke for April Fool’s Day.

“It was terrible what they did to him,” Hennig said.

O’Brien testified that despite his sales successes and his contributions to the hotel’s income, Paloff was jealous of him. He said Paloff — who is no longer a defendant in the lawsuit — made a “dark leprechaun” comment one
year near St. Patrick’s Day in reference to the plaintiff’s half-Irish ancestry and skin color.

O’Brien said he is heterosexual, but Paloff thought he looked feminine and often made inappropriate remarks, including suggesting that a gay patron take O’Brien home with him.

Stokes scoffed at any suggestion that Paloff’s actions during the April Fool’s Day incident were meant to be “mean-spirited” toward O’Brien.

 

“Everybody thought it was a joke,” Stokes said. “Was it something that should have happened in the workplace? Probably not.”

Stokes urged the panel to reject the claim by Dupree, the hotel’s former sales director, that he was the victim of gender discrimination. Dupreem testified that he had difficulties with a female member of his staff and that del Hoyo favored her because she was female.

But Stokes said that prior to his 2010 firing, Dupree was rehired at the hotel after a failed venture in Las Vegas and that del Hoyo gave him the job instead of the same female staff member he alleges was preferred by the general manager.

Hennig alleged del Hoyo inappropriately touched Giron, a Polo Lounge hostess for five years, as well as other female hotel employees in the workplace. The alleged misconduct reminded Giron of her own abuse as a child
and raised the single-parent’s concerns that something similar could happen to her young daughter, Hennig said.

Del Hoyo retired from the hotel in 2011. He denied any wrongdoing, testifying he had built a strong reputation as a manager by working in hotels worldwide before coming to the Beverly Hills Hotel, whose Polo Lounge is
considered one of the premier power dining spots in Southern California.

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