Motel 6 has agreed to pay up to $8.9 million to settle a
lawsuit alleging that its employees provided the personal
information of several Latino guests to federal immigration
officials, leading to their detainment.
The class-action lawsuit, filed in January, encompasses the
claims of eight hotel guests who said Motel 6 employees at two
locations in Phoenix handed over private information to U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials without a
warrant. The lawsuit asserted that the two motels invaded
guests’ privacy and discriminated against them on the basis of
their race and national origin.
In September 2017, Motel 6 acknowledged that employees at some
of its locations in Arizona regularly handed over information
that led to its guests’ being detained or deported. This
practice was revealed in a report in The Phoenix New Times,
prompting an array of calls to boycott Motel 6, which is owned
by G6 Hospitality, a Texas-based company.
After the initial reports, a spokeswoman for G6 Hospitality —
which is controlled by Blackstone, the private-equity firm —
said the practice was “implemented at the local level without
the knowledge of senior management.”
We’re just pleased they have agreed to put in place
procedures that would prevent them from sharing this
information in the future
Motel 6 then introduced a policy prohibiting its locations from
sharing information about its guests with law enforcement
officials unless the hotels are compelled to.
Of the $8.9 million that Motel 6 agreed to pay, up to $7.6
million would go to plaintiffs across the country, said Thomas
A. Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and
Educational Fund, the nonprofit that represents the plaintiffs
named in the lawsuit. The rest of the money, $1.3 million,
would go to the plaintiffs’ legal fees and to pay for the
administration of the settlement.
The proposed settlement, filed last week in the U.S. District
Court for the District of Arizona, would offer monetary damages
to guests across the country who come forward and show that
their private information had been offered to the government
beginning in February 2017. The agreement requires the approval
of the District Court, which has yet to rule on it.
Former guests who were interrogated by immigration authorities
as a result of having their information leaked would receive a
class-wide total of $1 million, while those who were placed in
immigration removal proceedings would receive a total of up to
$5.6 million, according to court documents. Plaintiffs whose
information was shared but who were not affected further would
receive a total of up to $1 million.
The proposed settlement also calls for Motel 6 to put into
effect a policy requiring employees to withhold guests’
information from immigration authorities in the event that they
do not have a warrant or subpoena — unless there is reason to
believe doing so is necessary to prevent a “significant crime,”
according to court documents.
“The potential harms here are as significant as you can
imagine,” Saenz said in an interview Tuesday. “We’re just
pleased they have agreed to put in place procedures that would
prevent them from sharing this information in the future.”
A joint statement from the plaintiffs’ lawyers and Motel 6 said
a settlement would establish a mechanism for those affected by
the improper sharing of private information to seek relief.
“Motel 6 fully recognizes the seriousness of the situation,”
the statement said, “and accepts full responsibility for both
compensating those who were harmed and taking the necessary
steps to ensure that we protect the privacy of our guests.”
In a response to the lawsuit, Motel 6 denied wrongdoing and
said its corporate policy against sharing this sort of
information would be sufficient.
A spokeswoman for ICE referred questions to the hotel company
because it had not been named in the lawsuit.
According to the suit, one of the plaintiffs, who is identified
with a pseudonym, was held in detention for over a month after
ICE officials arrested him in Phoenix outside the Motel 6 where
he was staying. The lawsuit said a Motel 6 employee had
photocopied his driver’s license from Mexico.
Early this year, a similar lawsuit was filed against Motel 6 by
Washington state alleging that hotel employees in that state
routinely gave immigration agents personal information about
guests, including their names, birth dates and license plate
numbers. That case is continuing, according to court records.