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Former barman at Waldorf claims racial discrimination

23 June 2005

A former barman at the Hilton Waldorf in London is taking the hotel giant to court for constructive dismissal on the grounds of racial discrimination.

Ernesto Watkins, a 59-year-old Filipino, joined the hotel 20 years ago and was working as an assistant bar manager when Hilton took over the property in January 2004. He had held the post since 1994.

The problem arose in September 2004, during the hotel's 30m refurb, when Watkins was moved from the cocktail bar to the restaurant bar. "It was effectively a demotion," said Watkins. "I'm a trained mixologist."

He alleges that the decision was racially motivated. "They brought in about 12 new staff, all of whom were white," said a spokeswoman for Watkins.

"And they employed a white head barman and bar manager over his head. It seemed like they only wanted young, white, spiky-haired staff behind the bar."

Watkins launched a grievance procedure in October 2004 and resigned three months later. In December, Hilton offered Watkins the post of cocktail bar manager but he turned it down because he said he no longer trusted the company.

After leaving the company Watkins demanded 100,000 in compensation, which Hilton rejected.

A Hilton spokesman confirmed that a tribunal hearing was scheduled for early next month, but would not comment further.

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