Last Wednesday, word got out about a class-action suit being brought by Gonzalez & Leigh on behalf of employees at the Courtyard Marriott in San Francisco Superior Court. Originally filed September 23rd, the recently amended complaint alleges that Marriott has failed to comply with the San Francisco Minimum Wage Ordinance since it was enacted on February 23rd, 2004. Further, it's alleged that the ordinance itself wasn't posted for employees and that one employee, Joseph Aubrey, was retaliated against for bringing the matter to the attention of management.
The workers are represented by Unite Here Local 2, who are embroiled in the ongoing hotel labor dispute. We contacted the president of the union Mike Casey, who said that his lawyer was looking into it. The hotel has argued in the past that employees were exempt from the law as unionized employees, but Marriott's counsel Nancy Lee confirmed to Aubrey's previous attorney that there is no collective bargaining agreement in place. "They never used expressed language, as the ordinance requires," said plaintiff's attorney Enrique Pearce, further explaining that contracts for Unite Here members citywide are void due to stalled negotiations.
Marriott touts itself as a great place to work for Latinos and working mothers, but plaintiffs (one of whom is Latino, another a working mother) would probably beg to differ -- the current pay is still below the minimum wage at $8.23. We spoke to Lance Rose, the current General Manager at the hotel, who said he wasn't in a position to comment. We turned to John Wolf, Mariott's spokesman in Washington, DC. While amiable, he declined to answer our questions about the suit.
The plaintiffs are asking for back wages (with interest), attorneys fees and $50 a day for "[Marriott's] continuous violation of the SFMWO." While the City Attorney's office filed a suit on behalf of employees in a number of Chinatown restaurants, this is the first private firm to sue under the ordinance, and if certified, would be the first class action suit. While Matt Gonzalez, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, helped author the original proposition, Pearce pointed out that it made it on the ballot thanks to a signature-gathering campaign before being voted into law by a wide margin.