CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Six housekeepers have filed suit against a North Carolina hotel, saying their supervisor put them through a decade of sexual assaults and threatened to have them deported if they complained.
Documents entered in Mecklenburg County Superior Court in Charlotte said the six workers are suing the Hilton Charlotte University Place, its corporate owners and Jose Rivas, the supervisor for the six women. The lawsuit alleged the assaults occurred between 2004 and October 2014.
The lawsuit alleges that Rivas frequently assaulted the women, sneaking into rooms they were cleaning and attacking them from behind. It also said Rivas would hold the women in a hotel room or a bathroom without their consent and despite their protests.
The woman said in the complaint that Rivas put his hands into their clothing and fondled them. They said he would sometimes kiss the woman against their will and rub his body against theirs. According to the lawsuit, the assaults sometimes occurred daily.
In one instance, according to the court documents, he reduced the work hours of workers who refused his sexual advances.
The women repeatedly demanded that Rivas end the attacks, but he refused to stop, according to the suit. Instead, he threatened the women with deportation, firings, reduced work hours and humiliation, according to the documents. The lawsuit listed each woman as a resident of Mecklenburg County, but their attorney, Corey Rosensteel, declined to provide additional details on his clients.
One of the women requested a meeting with Rivas' supervisor and another hotel manager in December 2013, but when she attempted to speak through an interpreter, the supervisors refused to listen to her complaints, the lawsuit said.
On Oct. 4, 2014, according to the documents, one of the women said she was attacked by Rivas before she fled for the hotel lobby and contacted a police officer there at the time. The following April, Rivas agreed to an Alford plea on a charge of assault on a female and was sentenced to 15 days in jail.
Under an Alford plea, a defendant is allowed to maintain his innocence even though he acknowledges prosecutors have enough evidence to convict.
Rivas' attorney, Jorge Gonzalez, has said the allegations are false, but he didn't respond to a request for additional comment Monday.
Ken Carlson Jr., the attorney representing the hotel management didn't return a telephone call seeking comment on Monday.
The lawsuit cites, among other claims, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, false imprisonment and infliction of emotional distress. The women are seeking damages in excess of $25,000. A trial is scheduled for late July.
Rosensteel called his clients "very brave."
"Certainly you could argue they're even braver given what's going on in the world right now," Rosensteel told The Charlotte Observer.
Asked why so much time elapsed between the assault that led to Rivas' arrest and the lawsuit, Rosensteel said his clients weren't aware they had a voice.
"When you're talking about taking on a large corporation like this one, it's a big step," he said.
NBC Charlotte reached out to the hotel and received this statement:
The Hilton Charlotte University Place hotel is confident that it took all appropriate and legal steps to address this situation over two years ago when it was first brought to management’s attention. The hotel values all its employees, and does not tolerate harassment of any type. Rather, the hotel and its management team strive to provide a positive work environment for everyone who works there. Because this matter is currently involved in litigation, the hotel has no additional comment.”
This story has been corrected to show that Rivas agreed to an Alford plea in the assault case.
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