Former employees who were let go during pandemic sue Chicago hotel to get jobs back

Coronavirus

CHICAGO — Three women who lost their jobs during the pandemic are suing a Chicago hotel.

The women worked at the Swissotel in the Loop and said the hotel is breaking the law by not bringing them back to work.

Maria Ruiz, Maria Teresa Hernandez and a third women filed suit Tuesday and said the hotel refuses to bring them back to work, despite decades of service and an ordinance which requires the hotel to do so.  

Ruiz was fired last fall, in the midst of the pandemic. She worked at Swissotel for nearly 25 years.  

“I started out as a housekeeper then I became a banquet server,” she said. “I gave my all to the hotel. I sacrificed time with my three children to be a good worker.”

Ruiz is eager to return to work but said the hotel won’t hire her. 

“I have been passed over even though the hotel knows I want to come back to work,” she said. “I tried to get the hotel to follow the law but they wont.”  

Chicago passed the Hotel Worker Return to Work Ordinance in June. The ordinance requires Chicago hotels to bring back employees who were fired because of the pandemic before hiring new ones.  

“I think about all the years of loyalty I gave to the company, all the missed time with my children, I don’t deserve to be treated this way,” Hernandez said.

Their attorney, Steve Yokich, said Swissotel passed over the women who helped pass the law in the first place. 

“We anticipated this problem last spring,” he said. “We lobbied the city council and the mayor and worked with responsible hotel chains and passed the hotel Right to Return to Work Act.  The act requires hotel to rehire their workers based upon their length of service for the hotel before the pandemic.” 

The former employees said they are scrambling for new jobs when they just want their old ones back.  

“I’m 51-years-old,” Ruiz said. “As much as I try, I haven’t been able to find another regular job. I have been so scared about what will happen to me and my family.”  

WGN News reached out Swisshotel and its parent company Accor for comment but have not heard back. 

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