Santa Monica hotel discriminated against Jewish group, jury finds (LA TIMES) By Martha Groves 08/16/12)
LOS ANGELES TIMES
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The Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica and its owner discriminated
against members of a Jewish organization at a charitable event two
years ago, a jury in Santa Monica determined Wednesday.
The case was brought by young leaders of the Friends of the Israel
Defense Forces, who had gathered on the afternoon of July 11, 2010,
at the Art Deco hotel. Soon after their party got underway around the
pool, hotel staff and security guards began telling group members to
remove their literature and banners, to get out of the pool and hot
tub, and to stop handing out T-shirts, according to legal documents
The employees said they were following the orders of Tehmina Adaya,
the hotel owner — a Muslim woman of Pakistani descent.
During the trial in Superior Court in Santa Monica, which began July
23, Adaya denied that she had violated California´s Unruh Civil
Rights Act, which bars hotels and other businesses from
discriminating on the basis of sex, race, color or religion.
She emphatically denied that she had ordered the group to halt the
event for fear that her family would cut off her financing. Adaya
inherited control of the hotel from her father, Ahmad Adaya, a real
estate tycoon and philanthropist who died in 2006.
The event had been arranged through Platinum Events, a marketing firm
that had organized other gatherings at the Shangri-La after the
property underwent a $30-million renovation and reopened in mid-2009.
The jury heard deposition testimony of a former employee, Nathan
Codrey, who said Adaya repeatedly used profanity as she insisted that
the event stop. "If my [family finds] out there´s a Jewish event
here, they´re going to pull money from me immediately," she said,
according to the testimony, which was read by a stand-in because
Codrey was out of state and could not be subpoenaed.
"This is a home run for the plaintiffs," said James Turken, their
John Levitt, an attorney for Adaya, declined to comment.
"I´m very proud to be part of a group who stood up for what is right
and what is just," said Ari Ryan, a plaintiff.
The jury found that Adaya and the hotel violated the Unruh Act and
inflicted emotional distress. The panel awarded statutory damages of
more than $1.2 million. A hearing on punitive damages is scheduled
for Thursday. (Copyright © 2012 Los Angeles Times 08/16/12)
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