The embattled Chateau Marmont is facing yet another discrimination lawsuit as a celebrity-fueled boycott gains steam.
In an April 26 filing, a Black employee who worked overnight shifts at the hotel’s front desk over a five-year period makes allegations about a series of racist episodes involving guests and a purported absence of backup from her superiors, including general manager Amanda Grandinetti, who has previously apologized after The Hollywood Reporter published employees’ claims she’d directed racist comments at them.
“My big thing is accountability,” says the worker, April Blackwell, who notes that she’s worked shifts in the same position at other local hotels since 2013 — including the London West Hollywood and the Standard Hollywood — and she’s never experienced such issues elsewhere.
Chateau attorney Paula M. Weber, observing Blackwell’s case is being funded by Unite Here Local 11 (which had attempted to unionize the hotel before COVID-19 hit), says in a statement to THR that the litigation “is just the latest move in their aggressive attacks against the Chateau Marmont; we look forward to responding fully through the legal process.”
Blackwell’s action follows those of two Black colleagues in recent months. Events server Thomasina Gross claimed that she was unfairly passed over for promotions in favor of less-experienced white hires, and then made to train them in their new duties. Adrian Jules, who worked in guest relations, alleged management was negligent in its handling of his complaint when he received a series of unsolicited, explicit text messages from an inebriated white female colleague.
Over the past year, Chateau employees have lashed out at the storied Sunset Boulevard hotel, first over their treatment when laid off at the onset of the pandemic, and later — breaking the hospitality industry’s strict code of silence — speaking publicly about what they claim is a pervasive institutional culture of racial discrimination and sexual misconduct. They blame the Chateau’s owner, hotelier Andre Balazs, who himself has been accused of racist hiring preferences and unwanted touching. (He denies all claims.)
Balazs’ partners in the Mercer, his Manhattan sister hotel to the Chateau, cited the claims in their own April 9 New York lawsuit attempting to kick him out of their business. They allege mismanagement of the SoHo property, including self-dealing. “This lawsuit has no merit,” responded Balazs’ attorney Jonathan Lupkin.
Since 2017, the hotelier’s clout has waned. That year he left the Standard hotel group, which he’d founded nearly two decades earlier and where he served as chairman. At the time he contended the move was a “friendly parting of ways” to focus on other opportunities. But THR learned he’d been maneuvered out, in part due to a history of inappropriate sexual interactions with subordinates that resulted in confidential settlements. (While the Chateau’s attorney has denied this, a spokesperson for The Standard told THR in September 2020: “There were a multitude of business and personal factors that contributed to the company’s termination of André’s employment, removal from the board and repurchase of his interests. We have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment. Much of what has come to light publicly since his separation [from The Standard] was kept from senior management.”
The union, which has periodically picketed the hotel for the past year, also launched a boycott. Early endorsers included Jane Fonda, Alfonso Cuarón, Edie Falco, Constance Zimmer, Eliza Dushku and Alison Pill. Then, on April 22, as Local 11 led a picket outside, Aaron Sorkin canceled his Being the Ricardos film shoot at the Chateau scheduled for that evening, with the film’s producer Todd Black acknowledging “the mistreatment of workers.” (SAG-AFTRA head Gabrielle Carteris had put her own union’s muscle behind the anti-Chateau push as well, noting how a substantial portion of her membership sustains itself with hospitality jobs.)
The scrapped Ricardos shoot has only bolstered the boycott effort: Since April 22, Amanda Seyfried, Sarah Silverman and Daveed Diggs added their names to the union’s petition.
A version of this story first appeared in the April 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.