A Santa Monica, California jury has found the Hotel Shangri-La guilty of discriminating against a Jewish group that was holding a charity event.
The owner of the hotel, Tehmina Adaya, who is a Muslim of Pakistani descent, ordered a party that was hosted by the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces to be shut down. The event was being held to raise money to help send the children of Israeli soldiers to summer camps in the United States. The hotel security asked the party organizers to remove their signs and literature, get out of the pool, and to stop selling t-shirts for their event.
Nathan Codrey, an employee who testified at the trial which began on July 23 in Santa Monica Superior Court, told the jury that Adaya kept cursing and insisted that the party be stopped. Codrey's claims show that Adaya's motives were anti-Semitic.
"If my [family finds] out there's a Jewish event here, they're going to pull money from me immediately," Adaya said, according to Codrey's testimony, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times.
Adaya eventually let the group continue with their party but only after they were forced to remove the banners and literature that indicated what the event was for.
Adaya denied all of these claims in her testimony. She gained control of the hotel when her father, real estate tycoon Ahmad Adaya died in 2006.
After a week of deliberation, the jurors found Adaya and the hotel guilty of violating California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, which bans hotels and other business from discriminating on the basis of sex, race, color or religion. Other violations include inflicting emotional distress.
The plaintiffs, which included 18 people and party planning company Platinum Events, which worked with the hotel to plan the event, were awarded $1.2 million in damages. Punitive damages will be determined later on.
"I'm incredibly proud of my clients," James Turken, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said after the verdicts were read, according to the New York Times.
"They stood up," Turken said. "They couldn't afford to take this on."