Marriott co-workers called black salesman ‘Buckwheat,’ told him to dance, lawsuit says

A former timeshare salesman says he experienced racial discrimination at work while employed at Marriott Vacations Worldwide.
A former timeshare salesman says he experienced racial discrimination at work while employed at Marriott Vacations Worldwide. ASSOCIATED PRESS

“Who do you guys think this is?” the sales manager asked during a meeting. A photo of “Buckwheat,” a member of the “Little Rascals” gang from the old short films, beamed from the meeting room projector.

“It’s Daryl Robinson,” the manager answered, according to a civil suit filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court against Marriott Vacations Worldwide, its parent company and all 50 John-and-Jane-Doe co-workers cited as defendants.

The lawsuit states the “Buckwheat” photo was one example of the racism Robinson encountered while working in the company’s Palm Desert, Calif. office. It eventually led him to quit his job and sue the company, seeking unspecified damages, according to KNBC.

Robinson started as a sales executive at the world’s largest timeshare sales company in February 2017 according to the suit. For a team-building exercise, he and other sales team members were told to submit a photo of themselves as a young child, so co-workers could guess which baby photo belonged to each co-worker.

According to the complaint, Robins said he did not want to participate. His elderly mother who lives out of state had all of his baby photos, and he was the only black person on the sales team, anyway, which awkwardly racialized the exercise of guessing based on the baby photo. The sales manager said she would supply a photo for him.

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And Buckwheat, whose signature line in the “Little Rascals” movies is “Otay,” was it.

That wasn’t the only example of the racist corporate culture at Marriott Vacations Worldwide, Robinson alleges in the suit.

We are aware of the allegations of this suit but as a policy, do not comment on legal issues and matters,” Marriott Vacations Worldwide spokesman Matt Kinney said in a statement obtained by NBC News.

At other meetings, the director of sales was encouraged Robinson to “come up and ‘dance’ “ for the other attendees, often to a Michael Jackson song played over speakers in the meeting room, according to the lawsuit.

“He is a professional, but was forced into a very stereotypical role of dancing for white people,” the lawsuit reads.

Robinson also alleges in the suit that he was made to work in a basement office with no air conditioning, playfully referred to by Robinson’s co-workers as his “hot box.”

Robinson called the treatment he received “humiliating and degrading,” according to the suit.

Matt is an award-winning real time reporter and a University of Texas at Austin graduate who’s been based at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 2011. His regional focus is Texas, and that makes sense. He’s only lived there his whole life.