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California Court Rules Hotel Owner Discriminated Against Jews

The Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica and its owner illegally discriminated against a group of young Jews, a jury rules.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/21/2012, 5:42 AM

Money (illustration)
Money (illustration)
Flash 90

The Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica and its owner illegally discriminated against a group of young Jews, a jury in a California Superior Court found on August 15.

The Jewish Journal reported that the jury in the case found that the hotel and its part-owner, Tehmina Adaya, had violated California state law when Adaya and members of her staff brought to an end a party that the plaintiffs had been holding at the hotel’s pool in July 2010.

The jury also decided that almost every one of the 18 individual plaintiffs had suffered negligent emotional distress and that most had also suffered intentionally inflicted emotional distress.

They ordered Adaya and the hotel to pay damages and statutory penalties to each individual plaintiff, in differing amounts, the report said. For some individual plaintiffs, the sums added up to more than $100,000; the total amount awarded to the group was not announced in court, but appeared to be in excess of $1 million.

“The jury clearly felt that the defendants acted intentionally, with malice, and discriminated against this group of young Jews, and justice was done,” James Turken, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, was quoted by the Jewish Journal as having said after the verdict was read.

The case centered on events that took place at the Hotel Shangri-La in July 2010 when the plaintiffs, most of them members of the Young Leadership Division of the local chapter of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), held a party at the hotel’s pool.

After examining some of the FIDF group’s promotional literature, Adaya took a number of actions against the group – including forcing the FIDF group to take down the banners, literature and other evidence of its presence and directing hotel security guards to prevent members of the group from swimming in the pool.

The plaintiffs also alleged that Adaya had made comments about wanting to remove “the [expletive] Jews” from the hotel or the pool.

Adaya, who was not present in court when the verdict was read, denied having made any discriminatory statements when she took the stand, according to the Jewish Journal. Her lawyers made the case that the plaintiffs, who had organized the pool party through an outside promoter who had been working with the management of the hotel, had not prearranged the event with the hotel.

The jury sided with the plaintiffs, finding that Adaya and the hotel in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of “sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation,” and entitles all Californians to “the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.”