Two sisters who have a combined 30 years experience working as housekeepers at a California Hyatt have been fired. They say they were let go by the Santa Clara Hyatt after complaining about being depicted as swimsuit-clad surfers for Housekeeping Appreciation Week.
The older sister, Lorena Reyes, 50, of San Jose, began at the hotel before Hyatt even began running it. Martha Reyes, 48, of Milpitas, has worked for the hotel for six years. When management accused them on Oct. 14 of "stealing company time" for taking excessive breaks, they were shown the front door, according to Jezebel.The decision was made after the hotel launched an investigation into the matter.
The investigation came 24 years into the elder sister's tenure at the hotel, but just a month after the sisters' run-in with management over the celebration marking Housekeeping Appreciation Week. Indeed, the hotel says the two sisters were being recognized for their service as housekeepers during the September celebration. And to shine a spotlight on them, hotel management said it decided to have what they thought was a little fun. They superimposed photos of their faces on cartoon images of surfers. They posted the images in the hallway of the staff-only section of the hotel.
It apparently didn't amuse the women.
"When I saw the photos I was very shocked. I was very embarrassed and angry," Lorena Reyes told NBC's Bay Area affiliate. "What they did was unjust, displaying our bodies in that manner."
Instead of approaching a manager over the photos, Martha says that she tore them down. When the employee who had put up the photos caught wind of Martha's act, the employee reportedly moved to have them restored.
"Everybody was enthusiastic about what we were celebrating. Many folks even wanted to take their images home," Peter Hillan, a Hyatt spokesman told the TV station. Some 75 staff images were reportedly included in the collage. In response to the firing, the Reyes sisters filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They say that they are only seeking back pay and their jobs reinstated. They aren't seeking any damages. For its part, the Hyatt chain is standing by the firing, and says the management wasn't even aware of the scuffle over the photos during the investigation.
The Reyes' story has nevertheless touched a nerve in the local community. This past Friday saw a march in front of the Santa Clara hotel, attended by some 20 or 30 protesters on the sisters' behalf. Speaking to the local media, the sisters' legal representation said the sisters' practice of combining breaks with lunch was a common and long accepted practice.
"Firing these long-term employees with weak rationale is not good enough and they need to take serious complaints about sexually degrading photos," said Adam Zapala, the Reyes sisters' attorney, told ABC affilate, KGO-TV.
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