Posted on November 9, 2010

Hilton Hotel ‘Avoided Employing Black Staff Where They Would Be Visible to Public’

Murray Wardrop, London Telegraph, November 9, 2010

One of the Hilton Hotel chain’s most exclusive residences avoided employing black staff in jobs where they would be “visible to the public”, an employment tribunal heard yesterday.

Jamaican-born Juliette Giscombe accused managers at the Hilton on Park Lane in Mayfair, London, of racial discrimination after she was repeatedly refused promotion.

The 57-year-old, who is the mother of comedian Richard Blackwood, claimed that black people were not allowed to work in front-of-house positions.

She alleged that she was forced out of her job last year at the five-star hotel after 10 years of being “unable to progress” from a telephonist position.

The mother-of-two said she that after six years under a “glass ceiling”, she repeatedly complained but was never taken seriously by the hotel human resources department.

“During the period of time I was complaining, there were no senior black members of staff in front-of-house positions,” Mrs Giscombe told the Central London Employment Tribunal.

“My observation of my time there was that the respondents did not recruit black staff to the front-of-house positions where they would be visible to the public.

“I became increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress with the respondent. I had been with the respondent for six years and remained in the same position I started.

“I found myself unable to progress. I could not understand why this was. I can only assume that it was in relation to my race.

“They could not conceive of a black person doing anything other than a menial role. They did invest in staff, providing they were white.”

Mrs Giscombe, from Streatham, south London, said she landed the job in 1999 but she was repeatedly passed over for promotion while younger, white colleagues moved up the career ladder, many of whom she had trained.

She claimed that as a result, other members of staff looked down on her and that one taunted her with “abusive language”.

This environment led to her suffering depression and she was signed off sick for several months between 2006 and 2008, the tribunal heard.

“I was signed off work with stress, anxiety and depression,” said Mrs Giscombe.

“I also had a number of bereavements in my family between 2006 and 2008 but received little sympathy from work.”

She said that on one occasion she was attending her father’s body at a funeral parlour when her manager insisted she come in to work.

Breaking down in tears, Mrs Giscombe said: “I recall an incident after the death of my father. Whilst I was attending his body at the funeral parlour I received a phone call from the front office manager who ordered me to return to work immediately.

“I told him I was at the funeral parlour. His response was that he had a business to run and wanted me to work.”

On another occasion, she was allegedly humiliated by being asked to provide valid proof of her immigration status despite being a British Citizen.

She said: “The request was not made to non-white staff. At this stage I had worked for the company for almost 10 years. I was a British citizen so why were they questioning my right to work in the UK?”

Mrs Giscombe is suing Hilton for age and race discrimination as well as constructive dismissal and is seeking £60,000 for loss of earnings and injury to feelings.

The hotel denies the allegations.

The hearing continues.