Man Settles Suit Against Terranea Resort Alleging Racial Discrimination

TORRANCE (CNS) – A white security guard settled a lawsuit he filed against an upscale hotel in Rancho Palos Verdes, in which he alleged he was fired in 2020 for complaining about discrimination and racially charged remarks from Latino colleagues, including “I don’t like white people.”

Craig Bruss’ Torrance Superior Court lawsuit allegations against the Terranea Resort included wrongful termination, intentional infliction of emotional distress, racial discrimination and harassment, retaliation and negligent hiring, supervision and retention. Lawyers in the case told Judge Gary Y. Tanaka during a post-mediation status conference on Thursday that the case was settled. No terms were divulged.

The resort previously issued a statement regarding the 41-year-old Torrance man’s allegations.

“Terranea Resort is not able to comment on pending litigation,” the statement read. “We are certain however, that any alleged accusations regarding this matter are baseless and unfounded, and will be proven so in court.

“Terranea takes all staff comments and concerns very seriously, as part of our ongoing efforts to ensure associates have a workplace in which they feel valued, respected and safe. Terranea has a zero-tolerance policy toward unlawful harassment of any kind. Each individual deserves to be treated with respect, dignity and courtesy. Since we opened our doors in 2009, Terranea has diligently worked to earn a reputation as both a premier resort that takes care of its guests and an excellent employer that provides a positive and rewarding work environment for its employees,” the statement continued.

In her court papers, defense attorney Cynthia J. Emry said the resort had “legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for plaintiff’s separation of employment.”

The suit alleged that Bruss, hired in June 2018, was subjected to a racially hostile work environment that included derogatory comments by Latino employees about whites, the suit states. The remarks were often accompanied by glares, stares and other threatening behaviors.

Bruss was asked, “What color are you?” And one Latino worker said many times, “I don’t like white people” as he stared at Bruss, the suit filed in November 2020 stated.

When an employee mentioned an upcoming wedding in front of a number of colleagues, a Latino employee allegedly said, “I don’t want to go if white people are going to be there” while glaring at the plaintiff.

Bruss felt “ostracized and isolated” as the Latino employees continued making their offensive remarks even after he complained to them, the suit stated. Bruss also was excluded from conversations by other security officers in his department who spoke Spanish in his presence, the suit stated.

Terranea’s work handbook states that harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace is prohibited, but the resort instead allowed “toxic working conditions,” according to the suit.

After a dispute with one Latino colleague who allegedly yelled at the plaintiff and then lied to the director of security about what happened, Bruss was left off the work schedule when he returned from vacation in September 2019, the suit alleged. Bruss believed that Terranea wanted to replace him with a less qualified male Latino who filled in for him while he was on vacation.

In October 2019, Bruss recorded a conversation he had with the younger Latino guard in which the colleague confirmed another guard’s disparaging comments about white people, the suit stated.

Bruss later spoke to his supervisor about his work conditions and told him about the recording, but the mistreatment continued, the suit states. Bruss subsequently told his boss about his suicidal feelings brought about by the discrimination, isolation and disdain with which he was treated in the workplace, but the boss did nothing to correct the problems, according to the suit.

Bruss was suspended the weekend of July 5-6, 2020, leaving him “shocked and appalled” that such action was taken, the suit states. He was told later that month that he was being fired for recording the conversation with the young Latino colleague nine months earlier without the co-worker’s permission, according to the suit.

Terranea maintained the recording was contrary to its policies, even though management knew about it for nearly a year and took no action, the suit stated.

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