March held for 2 fired housekeepers

November 18, 2011 8:35:16 PM PST
The Hyatt Hotel's plan to boost employee morale backfired. First came the charges of suggestive photos, and then a huge protest Friday. However, the hotel believes the union is making something out of nothing.

Sisters Martha and Lorena Reyes inspired the protest at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara. The former housekeepers say they were fired after complaining about two photos posted with their faces attached to bikini clad cartoons. They talked with us through an interpreter.

Martha said, "What I felt was a lot of anger, a lot of shame, and very humiliated."

Hotel management says the pictures were part of an annual Housekeeping Appreciation Week. The theme this year was "Riding A Wave of Success."

A spokesperson says the collage included some 75 employee photos and say this is the first they are hearing about any complaints.

"We look at this as really a camping by the union, Unite Here, who is trying to unionize this hotel and has sort of hijacked this particular issue for their own good," said Peter Hillan, a Hyatt spokesperson.

The sisters have a combined 30 years of service at the hotel property. They were fired last month for reportedly taking lunch breaks that were too long. Their attorney says his clients were combining missed breaks with their lunch and says that is a common practice among housekeepers. He filed a formal complaint today with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for retaliation.

"Firing these long term employees with weak rationale is not good enough and they need to take serious complaints about sexually degrading photos," said Adam Zapala, the Reyes sisters' attorney.

The Hyatt says it was trying to honor its employees with the bulletin board and says it will examine whether the beach theme was the right approach.

"Clearly we need to look at that and that's what we'll be doing in the short term," said Hillan.

Hotel management stands by its reasons for firing the Reyes sisters. They in turn will be fighting to get their jobs back.

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