Hotel chain to pay $8 million to settle racial bias lawsuits

The Adam's Mark luxury hotel chain agreed on Tuesday to pay $8 million, revise policies and seek minority customers, in settlement of racial discrimination lawsuits by the U.S Justice Department, Florida and a group of black guests at a college reunion.

The settlement includes $1.5 million for Florida to distribute to four historically black schools - Florida A&M University, Bethune-Cookman College, Edward Waters College and Florida Memorial College - for scholarships and internships in hotel management.

As well, $4.4 million is to be divided among the more than 1,200 people who went to the reunion last spring at the Adam's Mark in Daytona Beach, Florida. The chain will also bring in a national equal employment opportunity group to train its employees in non-discrimination and monitor their compliance.

The agreement will "ensure that every guest is treated equally and fairly," Attorney General Janet Reno told a news conference. Joining her, Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth said "Adam's Mark chose to do the right thing."

It was the largest and most comprehensive settlement ever of a racial bias case involving hotels, attorneys said.

In December, the Justice Department alleged the chain of 21 large, 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 violations of state consumer protection laws.

Earlier last year, five black vacationers brought a class action suit against the chain over the treatment of black guests at the Black College Reunion weekend in April. They alleged the Daytona Beach Adam's Mark singled them out as security risks and made them, but not white guests, wear bright orange wristbands to get into the hotel.

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