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The George Town Club, a members-only dining establishment on Wisconsin Avenue that bills itself as “one of the most elegant in-town clubs in the United States,” is in the midst of fighting off an array of discrimination, harassment, and wrongful-termination complaints filed by three longtime employees. Former head bartender Samuel Romero, former waiter Gilberto Salamanca, and former parking valet Melaku Teferra sued the club in D.C. Superior Court. In their complaints, Romero and Salamanca say they were fired after complaining about what they viewed as discriminatory treatment towards the club’s Hispanic employees by club management. Among their allegations: that recently hired restaurant manager and sommelier Laurent Lala called the club’s Hispanic employees “lazy,” “ignorant,” and “a bunch of drunkards” who did not “know how to work.” They also accuse the manager of stating a preference for employees who “were �tall and slender’ and not �short and fat’ like many of the club’s Latino employees.” In addition, Romero and Salamanca claim that club management instructed its Hispanic employees not to speak Spanish on the premises, even while Lala and another club manager were permitted to speak French. Romero, who had worked at the 800-member club since 1990, was fired in August; Salamanca, who had been with the club since 1997, was fired in September. Club president Steve Hayes says the assertions are false. “The club does not discriminate against anyone on any basis at all,” Hayes says, adding that staff were only instructed not to speak Spanish to customers who don’t understand the language. Teferra, 62, claims that after nearly nine years as parking valet, club management told him he was “too old” to park cars and demoted him to club steward and then part-time janitor before firing him. Teferra also accuses restaurant manager Lala of making inappropriate sexual comments about Teferra’s 18-year-old daughter and physically assaulting him twice after a disagreement. Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal’s Amy Bess, who represents both Lala and the George Town Club, says both Salamanca and Romero were fired for “performance-related” reasons, and the club viewed Teferra’s departure as a voluntary retirement. Bess also says Teferra’s allegations against Lala are baseless, and that the complaints are a result of friction between a new manager and entrenched staff. “A number of employees that had been there for a long time were simply not happy with the management change,” says Bess. Romero, Salamanca, and Teferra are represented by Thompson Hine’s Christopher “Kip” Schwartz. Romero’s suit has been referred for arbitration, as has a portion of Teferra’s suit. The club has asked a judge in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to move Salamanca’s suit to an arbitrator, as well.
Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected].

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