Hotel admits asking whites to serve Rao

May 26, 1994|By New York Times News Service

BOSTON -- The Four Seasons Hotel admitted yesterday that it had ordered an all-white staff to wait on the visiting Indian prime minister last week and, in a settlement with the state, agreed to issue a public apology.

Michael Duffy, chairman of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, said that based on the hotel's explanation, his agency was "satisfied this was an isolated incident."

During the visit of Prime Minister P. V. Narashima Rao last week, the hotel's management ordered that only "whites of European origin" serve Mr. Rao and his party, Mr. Duffy said.

The hotel's general manager, Robin Brown, had already apologized to two employees, Jose Abad and Harrison Lilly, bellmen who were reassigned during the prime minister's stay. The hotel reimbursed each man $179 for lost tips.

Under the terms of the settlement the hotel pledged, among other things, to contribute $75,000 to an educational effort on state anti-discrimination laws, to increase minority representation in management ranks, to hold weekly group discussions with its minority employees and to hire an outside consultant to give employees diversity training.

The hotel's order appeared to have originated with a request by Mr. Rao's security detail that no Indian, Sri Lankan or Pakistani workers wait on the prime minister. Two previous Indian prime ministers have been assassinated. Indira Gandhi was shot by one of her own security guards, a Sikh, and her son Rajiv was blown up at a campaign rally by a Tamil separatist.

"There was no question of any Indian agency asking their U.S. counterpart to discriminate on the basis of race or color," the Indian government said in a statement.

The incident received wide coverage in the Indian press.

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