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Settling a Case of Gender Discrimination at the Brown Palace

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Renate Rivelli, who in the early 2000s became the benefits manager at the historic Brown Palace Hotel & Spa in downtown Denver, seemed to be a rising star. After working her way up the ladder from the position of employment manager, she was named the hotel’s manager of the year in 2005. Yet in 2008, when the position of assistant human resources director was created, Rivelli was passed over for the job, which was given to a less-qualified employee, says the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (via 7News). As a result of a gender discrimination lawsuit, the hotel’s parent company, Texas-based Denver Hotel Management Inc., has agreed to pay $105,000 to settle.

The EEOC determined that Rivelli was discriminated against for being the sole caregiver of her two children, aged 8 and 12 at the time. The case alleged that in a 2008 meeting, the hotel’s managing director, Marcel Pitton, informed Rivelli that the position for which she applied was “simply not possible” because she already had “a full-time job at home with her children.” Rivelli said she was prepared for the additional work and to relocate but was never asked by managers.

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“Making assumptions about a woman’s ability to perform a job—which are not grounded in fact, but instead on stereotyped assumptions about her inability to work long hours due to her child care responsibilities—is unlawful discrimination,” says EEOC regional attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. But when the suit was filed, the hotel’s managing director called the allegations “unfounded,” writes the Denver Business Journal, which points out there is no admission of guilt in the settlement. Still, Denver Hotel Management is expected “to revamp its discrimination policies and conduct training for all of its employees to explain how stereotypes concerning a person’s family responsibilities can constitute illegal sex discrimination.”

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