“Although the lawsuits are in reference to separate incidents, they are both accusing the hotel restaurant employees of singling them out for their race and enforcing dress code restrictions that allegedly weren’t applied to white guests,” reports local outlet ABC13.
45-year-old attorney Willie Powells filed the first lawsuit. According to Powells’ suit, he was approached by staff members while he was in a meeting at the hotel bar, and they requested that he remove his hat. Powells alleges that other white patrons were also at the bar wearing hats, but were not asked to remove their headwear.
28-year-old teacher and doctoral candidate Blessing Nwosu brought the second suit against the upscale Houston hotel. Similar to Powells, Nwosu claims she was dining at the hotel restaurant Bloom and Bee when a staff member came up to her and asked that she cover up her shoulders, which were bare. Then, “a host walked over and placed a shawl over Nwosu’s shoulders,” reported the Houston Chronicle.
Nwosu included a photo with her legal documents, which appears to display a white woman clad in a tank top at another table in the background.
At a press conference on Saturday, Nwosu said, “My back was actually facing the host that did it. I looked up like, ‘Oh my god.’ I was stricken with panic. I couldn’t believe it.” “Everybody was looking. I feel like I was being made a spectacle, and it was embarrassing,” she added.
Both plaintiffs are represented by civil rights attorney Randall L. Kallinen. “Alleged dress code violations are often used to illegally exclude African-Americans from businesses,” said Kallinen.
The attorney says that the fact that there is a second lawsuit, “shows a pattern of discrimination by the hotel and its employees.”
The Post Oak Hotel has issued a response to these allegations, referring to the legal action as frivolous. The hotel released a statement: “The Post Oak attracts hotel patrons from all over the world and is one of the most diverse properties in Houston both in employees and in its customer base.”
“The plaintiff entered one of the hotel’s restaurants for lunch and approached the hostess stand. The hostess noticed on her own that plaintiff was clearly overexposed in her dress and discreetly and respectfully offered her a shawl for coverage. The hostess is a minority and denies any discriminating nature towards the plaintiff and simply wanted plaintiff to cover up,” the statement continued.
“This is nothing more than a frivolous lawsuit filed by an opportunistic lawyer looking for 15 minutes of fame and a pot of gold. It’s a lot cheaper these days to use the media for free publicity in lieu of paying for billboards or television advertising,” concluded the statement.