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A Muslim hotel owner discriminated against a Jewish group during a Southern California poolside charity event by ordering removal of banners and ousting them from the pool and spa, a jury decided in awarding $1.2 million statutory damages.
Punitive damages will be determined later.
The suit was filed by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, whose members had gathered two years ago at Santa Monica's ocean-view Hotel Shangri-LA, which is owned by Tehmina Adaya. The owner is a Muslim of Pakistani descent.
The event was organized by Platinum Events, a marketing firm that had organized other gatherings at the Shangri-La after a $30-million renovation three years ago.
Workers and security guards at the Art Deco hotel were acting on Adaya's orders when they told members of the group to get out of the pool and spa and remove banners and literature, according to trial testimony.
In her testimony, Adaya denied ordering a halt to the event for fear that her family would cut off her financing. Adaya inherited control of the hotel from her father, Ahmad Adaya, a real estate tycoon and philanthropist who died in 2006.
Former Shangri-La employee Nathan Codrey testified in a deposition read during trial that Adaya used profanity as she ordered a halt to the event.
"If my (family finds) out there's a Jewish event here, they're going to pull money from me immediately," Codrey quoted her as saying.
The jury decided on Wednesday that the hotel and Adaya violated California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, which bars hotels and other business from discriminating on the basis of sex, race, color or religion, the Los Angeles Times (lat.ms/NED3vj) reported.
"I'm very proud to be part of a group who stood up for what is right and what is just," said Ari Ryan, one of the plaintiffs.
The jury also found Adaya and the hotel inflicted emotional distress.
"This is a home run for the plaintiffs," their attorney said.
Adaya lawyer John Levitt refused to comment.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com