SALT LAKE CITY — A lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses the luxury Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City of luring workers from the Philippines to a program that promised training and cultural immersion but instead forced them to work long hours doing menial jobs for low pay.
The hotel misused a type of visa similar to an internship program and instead treated participants like normal workers to avoid travel costs and other fees, according to the lawsuit filed by four workers represented by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice and other organizations.
“This conduct is a blatant, greed-driven and illegal perversion of this country’s immigration laws,” David Seligman, executive director of Towards Justice, a Denver-based non-profit law firm helping with the lawsuit, said in a news release.
Grand America officials didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The Grand America Hotel opened a year before the 2002 Winter Olympics and is considered one of the most lavish in Utah. Past presidents have stayed in the hotel that often hosts major political gatherings and important conferences.
The hotel is the flagship of the Grand Hotel and Resorts company, which also owns four Little America hotels in Western states.
The J-1 visa program is intended to give foreign workers who can be scholars, teachers, camp counsellors and au pairs training and experience in those fields in the United States.
The lawsuit claims the hotel didn’t make good on promises of providing supervised training about aspects of the American hospitality industry.
The workers say their supervisors made racist comments and they were threatened with deportation when they complained about the hotel not following the internship plans.
Brady McCombs, The Associated Press