Jose Lambiet

Fired worker alleges age discrimination, revenge in suit against Biltmore

Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.
Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.

A nasty lawsuit was just filed against the owners of the Miami Biltmore Hotel by a $10-an-hour employee who claims retaliation after she complained of age discrimination.

The action, filed this month in a Miami-Dade County circuit court, alleges that phone reservation agent Grace Abuchaibe, 59, was fired as revenge for her first attempt to sue the hotel.

Abuchaibe worked at the Coral Gables landmark for 10 years, starting in 2005. In 2011, she claims, her boss demoted her in a plot to force her to leave the company because of her age, 54 at the time.

In 2012, according to records, Abuchaibe filed a discrimination action with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a prelude for a lawsuit.

But in time, she reached an understanding with the hotel: She dropped her complaint and promised not to sue, and she was reinstated as reservations agent.

“Being a savvy employer, [the Biltmore] did not undertake any obvious and immediate adverse employment actions [against Abuchaibe],” the complaint reads, “… and deliberately waited for time to pass for an opportunity to arise … before engaging in retaliatory action.”

Allegations included passing her over for promotions that went to colleagues in their 20s, the lawsuit reads, and failing to fix her computer to make her look inefficient.

Eventually, Abuchaibe was canned.

Records show the hotel has yet to be served with her lawsuit.

Owner Gene Prescott, a major Democratic Party fundraiser, couldn’t be reached for comment. Prescott is also a member of the board of Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing corporation.

The hotel’s vice president for public relations didn’t return a call for comment.