A 51-year-old cancer survivor filed a lawsuit Monday against the Marriott hotel chain alleging her employers refused to do enough to deter inebriated men from sexually harassing and assaulting her as she cleaned bathrooms at the Irvine location.
Leticia Vallejo, who lives in Santa Ana, started working for Marriott in December 2000. She primarily worked as a server, hostess and cashier until 2012 when she was afflicted with breast cancer, she said in the lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court.
She took a leave of absence to undergo chemotherapy, but when she returned to work she had lost her hair and her supervisors began “treating her differently,” the lawsuit alleges. One manager allegedly said he didn’t want her “working in front of the house because of the way she looked, and nitpicked her work,” the lawsuit alleges.
In December 2016, she was reassigned to work as a “food runner” in the hotel’s restaurant, and was later assigned to housekeeping, according to the suit.
Vallejo, who worked the night shift, was responsible primarily for cleaning the men’s rooms at the hotel.
Vallejo alleges that men would relieve themselves in front of her and make “inappropriate comments” to her, prompting her to report the harassment to her supervisors in 2017, according to the suit.
When she asked for conspicuous signs to alert patrons the bathroom was being cleaned she was told a general manager did away with them because they looked “too old fashioned,” the suit alleged.
In the spring of 2017, she said one man appeared to be trying to push his way into a room she was cleaning.
In the summer of 2017, she said a patron who appeared to be drunk groped her in the hotel bar’s restroom. The man dangled a $50 bill saying, “this is for you” as he tried to kiss her, she alleged.
Vallejo said she “panicked” and felt “terrified” as she broke away. As she recounted what happened to a co-worker, the man emerged from the bathroom saying, “You guys are so pretty,” and that he would give them money “if you let me touch you,” the lawsuit alleges.
The next day a supervisor laughed off Vallejo’s complaints, she alleged. The supervisor made a “joke to the effect he should have offered you $100,” Vallejo alleged.
Last month, Vallejo was given a sign the size of an 8 1/2 by 11-inch piece of paper alerting patrons the bathroom was closed for cleaning, but she said the warning is routinely ignored and the harassment continues.
Jeff Flaherty, a spokesman for Marriott, said the company had not yet received the lawsuit, but added that Marriott does not typically comment on pending litigation.
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