The Associated Press
WASHINGTON, March 21 — The Adam's Mark luxury hotel chain agreed today to pay $8 million, revise its policies and seek minority customers in settlements of racial discrimination lawsuits by the Justice Department, the state of Florida and a group of black guests.
The settlement includes $1.5 million for Florida to distribute to four historically black colleges in the state—Florida A&M University, Bethune-Cookman College, Edward Waters College and Florida Memorial College—for scholarships and internships in hotel management.
Attorney General Janet Reno told a news conference here that the agreements also will "ensure that every guest is treated equally and fairly." Joining her, Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth said, "Adam's Mark chose to do the right thing."
Plaintiffs: We Had to Wear Wristbands
Last December, the Justice Department charged that the chain, which owns 21 full-service hotels in 13 states, charged black customers higher prices than whites and segregated them in less desirable rooms as part of a corporate pattern of discrimination. Florida alleged the chain violated state consumer-protection laws.
Earlier last year, five black vacationers brought a class action suit against the chain over the treatment of guests at last April's Black College Reunion weekend. They alleged the Adam's Mark in Daytona Beach, Fla., singled them out as security risks and made them, but not white guests, wear bright orange wristbands to get into the hotel.
Under the agreement to settle the lawsuits, the chain will provide $4.4 million for black guests and visitors to the hotel during that weekend. Their attorney estimated that there were 1,200 guests and an undetermined numbers of their visitors. The five original plaintiffs will each get $25,000.
In addition, the chain agreed to pay $112,000 to the four black Florida colleges to coordinate and promote the annual Black College Reunion over the next three years.
The remainder of the settlement will pay legal fees and the costs of administering the payments to members of the class.
Hotel Agrees to Outside Monitoring
Although the hotel chain did not admit wrongdoing, its president, Fred Kummer, said in St. Louis, "We are willing to take these extra steps to demonstrate ... that we are absolutely committed to diversity and equality."
"While Adam's Mark ... has never intentionally done anything wrong, we apologize for any actions that may have made any of our guests feel uncomfortable or unwelcome."
Adam's Mark also agreed to hire an outside monitor, Project Equality of Kansas City, Mo., to investigate any complaints by guests, to design nondiscrimination training for all hotel employees, to test the hotels' compliance annually and to design a marketing plan to attract black guests to the chain.