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Suit: Days Inn employee told to just flip over mattress where guest died

Published Aug. 17, 2015

A group of African-American workers has filed a lawsuit against their former employer at the Days Inn hotel on Fletcher Avenue in Tampa claiming they faced discrimination and other hardships on the job. In one case, an employee said she was forced to flip over a mattress where a guest had died in preparation for the next guest to check in.

The suit says that plaintiff, Charlena Williams, had previously filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after she was forced to clean a hotel room where a body was found in July 2014. Williams claims in the suit that the hotel did not use proper health and safety measures to clean blood, vomit and other fluids from the room before booking new guests to stay there.

Williams also said that instead of replacing the mattress where the body was found, she was instructed just to flip it over.

The suit does not mention the outcome of the earlier OSHA complaint. But agency records show that OSHA issued the employer, Stickbay Inc., five serious citations the following December that totaled $13,685 in penalties. At least three of the citations were related to having employees handle "contaminated" linens and towels, and failing to make hepatitis B vaccines available to employees who were exposed to the body.

The lawsuit, filed July 30 in Hillsborough Circuit Court by Williams and 11 other former employees, accuses the local hotel franchise owner, Stickbay president Jamil Kassim, of employment discrimination. The former employees say Kassim used racial slurs to describe them, and managers at the hotel told the employees they were going to be fired based on their race. They were all fired during the summer of last year, the suit states.

Kassim could not be reached for comment.

The suit says several employees filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in June 2014, but the organization dismissed the case because it was unable to determine if the hotel was in violation. Other reports were filed to the Florida Commission of Human Rights in June 2014.

The Days Inn is at 701 N Fletcher Ave. in Tampa.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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