A class action lawsuit has concluded with Motel 6 agreeing to an $8.9 million settlement. Central to the litigation was the assertion that motel employees conveyed private information regarding Latino guests to officials working for Immigration and Customs.
The claims in the lawsuit centered around two Motel 6 locations in Phoenix. Eight hotel guests claimed that their private data was given to ICE officials even though the officials didn’t have a warrant. Among the complaints were that hotel employees invaded the privacy of its guests and that the employees discriminated against the guests based on their national origin and race.
Motel 6 admitted in September that employees at its Arizona locations shared guest information with government officials. This transfer of information led to guests being detained or even deported on numerous occasions.
It was the Phoenix New Times that initially brought the practice to light. In the aftermath, public cries to boycott the Motel 6 brand became difficult to ignore. G6 Hospitality, which owns the Motel 6 brand, states that the actions of the employees in Phoenix do not represent company policy. In fact, the corporate office was unaware of the practice.
Subsequently, Motel 6’s corporate offices instituted a company-wide policy forbidding the sharing of information with law enforcement unless employees are compelled to do so. A warrant or subpoena must be presented before any information can be exchanged.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund represented the eight plaintiffs in the lawsuit. A spokesman for the organization says that upwards of $7.6 million of the settlement will go directly to the plaintiffs. An estimated $1.3 million will be used to pay for the costs of administering the settlement and for attorney fees. Those plaintiffs who were placed in removal proceedings stand to get the largest share of the settlement money.
With planning and some luck, most businesses never have occasion to deal with law enforcement. However, this case is a helpful reminder that it is wise to have policies in place so that employees will know how to react in the event of an encounter with law enforcement.