A former, openly gay chef at Washington, D.C.’s historic Willard Hotel was forced out of his job because he repeatedly complained about his co-workers’ homophobic taunts, the city’s Office of Human Rights has said. After investigating, it concluded Alberto Vega was indeed “harassed on a frequent, nearly daily basis by multiple members of the kitchen staff,” with his supervisors joining in too, “compounding the impact of the ridicule.” Vega, who is from Puerto Rico, was apparently subjected to taunts in two languages, which ranged from lines like “God punches faggots,” to questions about why he didn’t have kids, to being called “burro,” Spanish for “donkey.”
According to the Blade, Vega now teaches culinary classes at a charter school, but he says he tried to get out of that hostile work environment several times by taking jobs elsewhere in the InterContinental Hotel Group parent company. Hotel officials allegedly made excuses for why he couldn’t have them, possibly even mislabeling his previously held job title as “prep cook” in an effort to disqualify him.
He was eventually fired from the Willard — where Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the “I Have a Dream” speech — in August of 2013 after working there for a year, though the hotel claims he “voluntarily” left after refusing to work. Its attorney says it “condemns unlawful discrimination in all of its forms,” and has otherwise filed a motion for appeal.