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Fired Hilton hotel clerk's age and reverse discrimination case reinstated

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A federal appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling in a reverse discrimination case and reinstated a racial and age discrimination lawsuit filed by a hotel's terminated white front desk clerk who was in her 60s.

Valeri Kay Kilgore began working as a front-desk agent for Hilton Garden Inc., a unit of McLean, Virginia-based Hilton Worldwide, in 2011, according to Thursday's ruling by the 11th U.S. District Court of Appeals in Atlanta in Valarie Kay Kilgore v. Trussville Development L.L.C. d.b.a. Hilton Garden Inc.

In February 2012, the front desk manager, who was her supervisor, asked Ms. Kilgore to train two new part-time front desk agents who were young and African-American females with no front-desk experience, according to the ruling.

Ms. Kilgore was told the new hires were to work at a sister property, but they remained at Ms. Kilgore's hotel Trussville, Alabama, and her hours were reduced because of the new hires.

Ms. Kilgore alleged that a number of discriminatory comments were made to her, including the hotel's general manager telling her, “You are old, Katie. Where's your sense of humor. Can't you remember what that is? You did hear me, right?” The front desk manager was black, while the general manager was white, according to the ruling.

Ms. Kilgore was terminated by the hotel in June 2012, allegedly for rude and discourteous behavior towards guests. She filed suit in U.S. District Court in Birmingham Alabama in March 2013, charging race and age discrimination, and the court granted Hilton summary judgment dismissing the case.

Ms. Kilgore appealed the ruling, and a three-judge appellate court unanimously reinstated the case. Ms. Kilgore “presented sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of both age and race discrimination, creating an inference of unlawful discrimination,” said the ruling, citing that the two African-American hires remained at the hotel after she was fired, and the comments that were allegedly made to Ms. Kilgore. The case was remanded to the lower court for further proceedings.

In 2014, a federal appeals court upheld an $82,000 award to a white attorney who claimed he was the victim of discrimination by a black-majority hospital board that replaced him as the board attorney with a black attorney.