Adam's Mark Sues Historians 

Adam's Mark Sues Historians

A recent lawsuit filed by the Adam’s Mark Hotels & Resorts chain in the wake of an investigation for racial discrimination is causing the defendants in the suit to question the hotel chain’s motives. In the lawsuit, filed on August 8th, Adam’s Mark seeks $100,000 in damages from the Organization of American Historians (OAH). A released statement from the hotel chain asserts that the suit was filed because OAH breached its contract with Adam’s Mark. Adam’s Mark spent the end of 1999 and the early months of this year as the subject of a joint investigation for racial discrimination by the U.S. Justice Department and the Florida Attorney General’s Office. OAH insists that it only canceled its annual meeting at the hotel because the group’s members did not want to be associated with a chain accused of racist practices. OAH filed a countersuit on September 27th seeking $75,000 in damages. The group of historians now suspect that the hotel chain has targeted them because they were prominently featured in the national press during the Adam’s Mark investigation. “We’ve talked to other parties who canceled at the same time and Adam’s Mark hasn’t sued any of them,” says Lee W. Formwalt, executive director of the OAH. “We think this is because a lot of attention was given to our decision and the Adam’s Mark is upset over all the coverage our situation received.” Numerous stories about the problems between the organization and the hotel chain appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The New York Times, The Herald-Sun (Durham, N.C.), and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Adam’s Mark has not sued any of the other organizations which canceled their conventions at the same time, a group which includes The National Football League, The Episcopal Church of America, The National Parks Service, and The Human Rights Campaign, a national gay and lesbian political organization. The hotel chain asserts that the $100,000 in damages were incurred when the OAH changed the venue for its annual conference from the Adam’s Mark Hotel in St. Louis to nearby St. Louis University. The OAH claims that it was compelled to do so because many of the organization’s 9,000 members said they would not feel comfortable attending a conference in a hotel accused of racist practices. “A number of our historians, both minority and white, were upset that we would consider holding our annual meeting in a facility that was under investigation for racial discrimination,” says Formwalt. Adam’s Mark’s Executive Vice President Fred S. Kummer III released the following statement in response to the lawsuit with the Organization of American Historians, but no one representing the hotel chain would comment further. “Adam’s Mark Hotels & Resorts expects all convention groups to fulfill the terms of their contract. Unfortunately, the Organization of American Historians did not fulfill their obligation, despite the fact that ample time was provided for them to do so. Adam’s Mark followed the same policy with regard to the OAH as with every other convention group that books at our hotels. It is unfortunate that it was necessary to take this action.” The initial racial discrimination investigation was triggered by a class action lawsuit filed in May 1999 by five black guests at the Adam”s Mark Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida. The plaintiffs were staying in the hotel as part of the Black College Reunion (BCR), an annual festival that attracts 100,000 mostly young African Americans to Daytona Beach each spring. The plaintiffs accused the Daytona Beach hotel of charging black guests a higher room rate than white guests and subjecting black guests to stricter security measures. The plaintiffs also claimed that they were not allowed to use telephones, mini-bars, or movies in their rooms without first paying a large cash deposit, and that couches, lamps, and chairs were removed from the lobby the day the BCR guests arrived. The plaintiffs also claimed that BCR guests were forced to wear identifying orange wristbands and that pictures had been removed from the walls of their rooms. Adam’s Mark Hotels & Resorts settled the class-action lawsuit and the suit filed by the U.S. Justice Department in March of this year. In the settlement, the chain admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to pay $8 million in damages. However, in early October U.S. District Court Judge Anne Conway voided the settlement, saying that case law prohibited class-action payments to a minority group without the members showing individual damages. (You can write Rebekah Gleaves at gleaves@memphisflyer.com)

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