Union calls on USC to boycott hotel following lawsuit

Sandra Pezqueda, a former employee of the Terranea Resort, filed a lawsuit against the hotel in 2017 following allegations of sexual assault during her employment. (Photo from Twitter)

A coalition of boycotters has called on individuals, companies and USC to cut ties with the Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes after eight women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct during their employment at the luxury hotel since 2017.

On the Terranea Resort website, USC Sports Properties, a division of FOX Sports Media Group and Home Team Sports, is listed as an official partner. USC Athletics announced in 2012 that the Terranea Resort is the official resort of the University’s athletic programs.

Additionally, the Keck School of Medicine hosts programming and events at the resort. The school most recently held a radiology conference at the hotel last October.

“When a resolution is reached, we will determine if the resort continues to meet our standards,” USC Athletics wrote in a statement to the Daily Trojan.

The lawsuit against the hotel was filed in 2017 after Sandra Pezqueda, a former dishwasher and chef’s assistant at the resort, publicly detailed her experiences with repeated incidents of alleged assault. The Guardian first reported on Terranea staffers’ allegations of sexual harassment last October, and the allegations gained national attention after TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year issue named Pezqueda one of the “Silence Breakers” — some of the women who ignited the #MeToo movement by speaking out.

The lawsuit was settled in May 2018 and the hotel was dismissed as a party to the suit.

“USC Athletics is aware of allegations involving the Terranea Resort and will continue to monitor it closely,” USC Athletics wrote. “USC values and upholds its commitment to environments free from discrimination and harassment. We have a zero tolerance policy for that kind of behavior on our campuses and require the same commitment from our partners.”

UNITE HERE Local 11, a union representing over 30,000 workers in the Southern California region, leads the #MeTooTerranea boycott against the hotel and its partner organizations. The union has partnered with advocacy groups including California NOW, Feminist Majority and Ultraviolet.

“At the end of the day, I feel that USC’s response is not the right response,” said Maria Hernandez, communications director for UNITE HERE Local 11. “They don’t really understand what is really happening … [It] seems like they are choosing their business and their events over what is happening at this hotel, and in my [opinion], it feels like they just don’t care.”

Since Pezqueda’s allegation, seven more women who worked at Terranea have come forward with similar allegations of misconduct and harassment against the resort. Following backlash from the boycotters, Vox Media’s Code Conference and AOL’s MAKERS Conference, which were held annually at the Terranea, were relocated after facing backlash from boycotters.

Daniel Jimenez, an organizer for UNITE HERE Local 11, said he hopes USC will also reevaluate its partnership with the Terranea Resort.

“The values of [USC] have to be aligned with [its] actions,” Jimenez said. “It is really important that [USC] stands with women, they do the right thing and they stop doing business with the Terranea until the resort becomes a place where women are treated with dignity and respect.”

In a statement to the Daily Trojan, the Terranea Resort denied the allegations made against the hotel and its staff.

“The lawsuit has no merit and is part of a smear campaign by UNITE HERE Local 11 designed to force Terranea to unionize and forgo a democratic process despite a lack of interest by most of its employees in having such representation,” the statement said. “The overwhelming majority of our guests and customers recognize the union’s agenda.”

Representatives from UNITE HERE Local 11 hope the lawsuit will force Terranea Resort to change its alleged culture of sexual assault and misconduct among staff and guests.

“With these women coming forward, it is creating a culture of ‘Oh my God, this happened to you, this happened to me, too,’” Hernandez said. “Instead of the resort choosing to stand up with them and choosing to … take the issue seriously, again they are choosing not to — choosing not to comment and saying that people are liars.”

Keck Media Relations did not respond in time for publication.

This article has been updated for clarity.