Lawsuit claims Grand America hotel exploited Filipino interns

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This Sunday, June 23, 2019, photo, shows the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. A lawsuit filed Tuesday, accuses the luxury Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City of luring workers from the Philippines to a program that promised training and cultural immersion but instead forced them to work long hours doing menial jobs for low pay. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News)- A lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses the Grand America Hotel of using interns from the Philippines that were promised training and cultural experiences to instead work long hours doing “less desirable tasks” than regular employees with minimal pay.

Interns were brought in on a J-1 Visa, an Exchange Visitor Program created to provide opportunities for foreign visitors to experience U.S. society and culture, according to the program’s website.

Last year there were 4,838 participants to the program in Utah, according to j1visa.state.gov. Most of the participants worked in Park City.

Zipcode Participants
84060 1, 348
84098 644
84112 382
84764 208

Each participant at the Grand America paid more than $3,000 each to become interns, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit claims they were given an internship plan including specific goals, skills, and techniques they would learn and accomplish. As well as a plan to attend certain cultural experiences such as local festivals and time at Hogle Zoo.

“Defendants did not provide [the participant] the internship experience he was promised. Rather, Defendants employed [them] at the Grand America Hotel as nothing more than a low-wage worker Defendants needed to operate the hotel,” the lawsuit states.

Guidelines for the program specifically state participants “must not be used as substitutes for ordinary employment or work purposes; nor may they be used under any circumstances to displace American workers.”

The lawsuit claim interns usually worked 16-hour days.

“The hotel threatened plaintiffs with deportation if they did not do the work they were ordered to perform,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also referred to a 2011 Department of Justice investigation into the hotel that found the hotel hired undocumented workers.

Attorneys are seeking to make it a class-action lawsuit, stating around 100 workers endured the same treatment.

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