Did Ritz Honor 'Whites Only' Request?

Luxury hotels aim to fulfill every guest's needs, dreams and desires. But what if that includes being served only by white employees who sound American?

One Florida beach resort allegedly granted just such a wish last month, entering into its computer system a guest's request that he and his family not be served by "people of color" or staff with "foreign accents," according to a federal lawsuit filed this week.

The posh Ritz-Carlton Naples is being sued by one of its current employees, a black man of Haitian descent who says the hotel discriminated against him by not allowing him to serve the family at its restaurant in March.

Wadner Tranchant, 40, says in the lawsuit obtained by ABC News that the upscale resort created a work environment that was "hostile or abusive." Tranchant still works at the resort, according to his lawyer Michel McDonnell, who would not comment on the suit, saying the complaint speaks for itself.

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When reached on the phone by ABC News, Tranchant also refused to comment.

His suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Fort Myers, Fla., seeks more than $75,000 in punitive and compensatory damages.

"Obviously we can't comment on pending lawsuit, however it is the policy of the Ritz-Carlton hotel company to neither condone nor tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind by either our employees or our guests," said Vivian A. Deuschl, spokeswoman for the hotel chain.

But the family has since been banned from all Ritz-Carlton hotels worldwide, Deuschl added.

Deuschl said Ritz-Carlton is investigating the facts underlying the lawsuit and is reminding all of its employees of the company's "strong non-discrimination policies."

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Luxury brands like Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental take service very seriously, said Steven A. Carvell, associate dean for academic affairs at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration.

But, he said, there are some demands that just can't be met.

"I would presume that anybody at a management position at a luxury property in this country would understand that we do not accommodate requests based on racial bias because that would be an improper request," Carvell said. "It would also be improper to say: when you send my housekeeper up, send the pretty blond."

"The idea that the guest is always right has an asterisk attached to it which is: usually, but not always," added Bjorn Hanson, an associate professor of hospitality and tourism management at New York University.

California employment lawyer Keith A. Fink said blocking the waiter from working would violate civil rights laws.

"This Ritz single policy of a wholesale exclusion of a minority group or those with foreign accents from working in certain jobs in a place of public accommodations is so offensive I am sure the Ritz will settle this matter fast."

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