Last year, WW obtained the 911 call between hotel staff and a dispatcher where the staff member characterizes Massey's communication with the security guard as "arguing." The caller describes Massey as an "African American male, wearing all black, he's got his cell phone out recording us."
The transcript of the 911 call corroborates the lawsuit's account.
While Massey was being removed from the hotel, he documented the experience by video on his phone and shared it via Instagram. The videos gained national attention.
Jason Kafoury, who is one of the lawyers representing Massey for the Portland law firm of Kafoury & McDougal, says that Massey felt “humiliated” when two police officers flanking him on either side “marched him out in front of the entire crowded lobby even though he was a paying guest.”
Kafoury says the video's circulation resulted in dozens of other people of color reaching out to the firm and sharing similar stories of racial discrimination by hotel staff across the country. Kafoury is representing three other plaintiffs who have decided to file suit.
"Dozens of people reached out to the law firm," says Kafoury. "They were all African American and all singled out in lobbies by security in Hilton hotels when there were other white patrons around."
Kafoury alleges that pattern isn't an accident.
The law firm is asking that the hotel chain produce all similar complaints of racial discrimination and elucidate any security policies that may give employees the ability to question guests.
Hilton spokesman Nigel Glennie tells WW that Hilton isn’t responsible for what took place, because it took place at one of their franchise properties that’s controlled by a management company: “The responsibility for this lies with the management company.”
Glennie tells WW that Hilton creates the "standards" for its various franchise locations—one of those being the hotel Massey stayed at—but is not responsible for formulating policies or implementing those policies. That, Glennie says, is left up to the company that manages the franchise, meaning there could be vast differences in policies formed at franchise locations.
“The actual procedures and policies that are implemented at that property are the responsibility of that management company,” Glennie says. “We do not dictate policies, we dictate standards.”
According to the Portland DoubleTree staff where Massey stayed, the local management company that oversees the franchise and is responsible for policy implementation, the Westmont Hospitality Group, is putting together comment regarding the lawsuit today.
The DoubleTree staff declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Glennie tells WW that all of Hilton staff and franchise staff underwent an accelerated diversity and unconscious bias training as a result of the December incident.
Though he declined to comment on the specific litigation, Glennie did say that “I would think that the ability to walk up and ask a person in the lobby if they are a guest of the hotel, is perfectly reasonable.”