And if this Sunday is anything like the power couple’s past Academy Awards afterparties, guests can expect delicacies like caviar by the gallon, truffle quesadillas, and bottles of Hov’s own Armand de Brignac Brut Gold champagne—plus a star-studded invitation list that’s previously included Mary J. Blige, Adele, Drake, Rihanna, Stevie Wonder, Michael B. Jordan, Serena Williams, Reese Witherspoon, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
But this time, celebrities may face down a picket line to get into the annual “Gold Party” at the bar of the Los Angeles hotel, and Jay-Z is under pressure to cancel altogether.
Workers say they plan to protest outside the storied Chateau Marmont and its Bar Marmont as part of a continued boycott against the company, which is under fire for terminating a majority of its staff at the start of the COVID pandemic in March 2020. Roughly 250 employees—some who had worked there for decades—were left without severance and health care.
Martha Moran, who worked at Chateau Marmont for more than three decades as a housekeeper—until she was unceremoniously let go after COVID emerged—will be among them.
Moran, 56, told The Daily Beast she will be protesting outside the hotel on Sunday night in hopes of getting her job back.
“For me, after 33 years, they left me out on the streets without any money, without any healthcare,” Moran said on Thursday. “I am asking the hotel to respect the law. I need the support of the community…the hotel threw us out like trash.”
For Moran, the Chateau Marmont was her “life’s work,” and she now feels bereft. She is older, and said it is “hard to start anew.” Moran, who has two sons, has had great difficulty paying the bills since the layoffs, and was without any income whatsoever for a few months while waiting for her unemployment benefits to kick in.
“That was a really scary feeling,” she said, adding that her family has still not fully recovered from the financial hit they took.
The picket line is organized by the union UNITE HERE Local 11, which is also spotlighting some employees' accusations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment. Two former workers filed now-dismissed discrimination lawsuits against the hotel in 2021, and the matters are currently in arbitration.
Employees also claim that the hotel inordinately stopped and questioned Black guests upon their arrival—including actress Tiffany Haddish, whose representative confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that “two such incidents” occurred.
Kurt Petersen, co-president of Local 11, told The Daily Beast that “Chateau Marmont has been the absolute worst in terms of employers who tried to exploit the pandemic by throwing workers out to the curb without health insurance and pay.”
“Everyone needs to decide which side they’re on, including Jay-Z,” Petersen added. “Are you with a hotel that has tried to profit off and exploit the pandemic, or are you with the workers who’ve built the hotel and now sit outside wondering how they’re going to pay for their rent?”
Other prominent Black artists—including Gabrielle Union, Spike Lee, Issa Rae, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Roxane Gay—are reportedly supporting the boycott.
“It is my hope that Jay-Z moves his afterparty and joins the many leaders in entertainment that have chosen to courageously stand with the many workers who are the backbone of our community,” Sepi Shyne, mayor pro tempore of West Hollywood, told The Daily Beast.
Representatives for Jay-Z and Beyoncé didn’t return messages left by The Daily Beast.
A spokesperson for Chateau Marmont told The Daily Beast that the hotel has never been unionized in its 92-year history and thus UNITE HERE’s description of its protest as a “picket line” isn’t accurate. Chateau Marmont was just one of many hotels in Los Angeles, the rep argued, that let go of the bulk of their workforces during the coronavirus pandemic.
“These meritless allegations are all unproven for one simple reason: they were manufactured in lawsuits bought and paid for by Unite Here Local 11 as part of their targeted efforts to unionize Chateau Marmont,” the spokesperson said in an email. “Contrary to the bogus claims in these already-dismissed, union-backed sham filings, Chateau Marmont has a long and well-documented history of diversity and inclusion among both our employees and our guests.”
The flack claims that the hotel has rehired as many as 50 employees as it works to reopen at full capacity, but that the union has waged an intimidation campaign that’s hampered its ability to hire more of them and has resulted in lost business—including Amazon’s Being the Ricardos and Paramount+ series The Offer scrapping shoots on the property because of the labor dispute.
Chateau Marmont, the spokesperson added, is rehiring workers based on the city’s right-of-recall ordinance, which requires hotels to reinstate staff based on seniority. The person said that some of the employees who were offered their old jobs have opted not to return.
He also suggested UNITE HERE has deployed paid agitators to protest outside the hotel even though many of them supposedly aren’t former employees and have no connection to the business.
Petersen, however, dismissed the hotel’s talking points.
“There’s no excuse for their behavior both in terms of how they’ve handled accusations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment and how they fired all their workers after the pandemic began,” Petersen told The Daily Beast. “What does that say about their credibility and moral compass? They need a sea change.
“Jay-Z standing with the workers would help us move in that direction.”
At least three former employees have filed lawsuits accusing Chateau Marmont of creating a hostile work environment for people of color.
In December 2020, a Black employee named Adrian Jules sued the Chateau’s owner, celebrity hotelier André Balazs, and the company for discrimination, sexual harassment, invasion of privacy, bullying and workplace harassment, among other alleged violations.
According to the federal lawsuit, Jules “was aware of internal practices” which were “carried out by Hostesses and front-of-the line staff, to ensure Black Staff and Guests were not highly visible to their desired predominantly white core demographic.”
Jules “often saw celebrity guests of color treated differently and denied entry to Chateau Marmont by White Employees,” the complaint alleges. (Court records show discovery in the case is on hold pending an arbitration in California.)
Thomasina Gross, another Black former staffer, filed a suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court in January 2021, alleging race discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation. The complaint alleges that, “One byproduct of the Chateau’s carefully cultivated ‘exclusive’ party environment is that the company selects its management and most visible front-of-the-house employees in a way that fits the story it sells.” The filing states that “upper management and the heads of all departments other than housekeeping are entirely white.”
The hotel’s most coveted role is restaurant server, the lawsuit alleges, and offers workers a chance at “lavish tips and mingling with A-list clientele,” but it's often reserved for people who are “young, thin, and light-skinned or white.” Black workers, the complaint argues, are placed in less desirable jobs like housekeeping which typically don’t come with tips.
Gross claimed she was “repeatedly passed over” for promotions that instead went to white applicants. She also alleged the hotel’s managing director was “generally hostile” toward Black employees and made “overly racist or racially tinged comments,” saying, “Yes a’massa,” and referring to a colleague as her “favorite blackie.”
The complaint states that Gross, as an events server, was subject to “unwanted touching from guests on a near-daily basis.” Gross’s lawyer asked the court to dismiss the case three months later and the matter is now in arbitration.
In an April 2021 lawsuit also filed in L.A. County Superior Court, former Chateau Marmont employee April Blackwell made similar accusations to Gross.
Blackwell, who worked the overnight shift at the property’s front desk, alleged wrongful termination, whistleblower retaliation, harassment, discrimination, and negligence by the hotel.
As a Black employee, Blackwell claimed she not only faced discrimination from guests—one of whom she accused of drunkenly shouting racial slurs at her for refusing to hand over someone else’s room key—but from her supervisors, as well.
She claims the hotel’s managing director, who did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, “made numerous racist comments to employees of color.” The director “used her final stamp of approval in hiring decisions to carefully maintain the ‘look’ on which the Chateau’s glamorous brand depended,” the lawsuit stated.
After being verbally abused by a guest who raised his hand as if he was about to hit her, Blackwell discovered that she was being fired by the managing director for raising her voice during the confrontation.
Blackwell and Gross were represented by the same lawyer, Lauren Teukolsky, who filed motions to dismiss the lawsuits before the hotel responded to them. In Blackwell’s case, Teukolsky asked for a dismissal just a month after filing the complaint.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter in 2020, after the outlet published a scathing feature on the allegations that included interviews with some 30 Chateau Marmont employees, the property’s lawyers said “workplace issues are regularly raised, as at any business, and swiftly investigated and addressed.” The Chateau has a “whistleblower line…in place for employees to report issues or concerns directly to outside integrity counsel,” the statement said.
Balazs, for his part, was quoted in the piece as saying, “I view the curation of a boutique hotel as similar to hosting a delightful dinner party, the secret to the sauce is ‘in the mix’—the success of this recipe allows for no discrimination based on race, color, creed, sexual orientation, gender, age, or even the slightest hint of such bias.”
For now, Martha Moran would like for Jay-Z and Beyoncé to find another venue for their Oscar-night bash.
“I want them to respect the boycott until I am back to work,” she told The Daily Beast. “If they go, it’s just going to tell André [and other Chateau Marmont execs] that they can do anything they want.”