A Black man got interview after he changed his name on resume. Now, he's suing

A Black man has filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against a hotel in Detroit, Michigan, alleging the hotel only offered him a job interview after he changed the name on his resume, according to a copy of the lawsuit.

A Black man has filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against a hotel in Detroit, Michigan, alleging the hotel only offered him a job interview after he changed the name on his resume, according to a copy of the lawsuit. (Suchada Toemkraisri, Alamy)


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DETROIT — A Black man has filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against a hotel in Detroit, Michigan, alleging the hotel only offered him a job interview after he changed the name on his resume, according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by CNN.

Dwight Jackson filed the lawsuit against the Shinola Hotel on July 3, alleging he was denied a job when he applied as "Dwight Jackson," but later offered an interview when he changed his name to "John Jebrowski."

The lawsuit alleges Jackson was denied a job in "violation of Michigan Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act."

Between January and April 2024, Jackson, a 27-year-old Black man, applied to multiple positions at the Shinola Hotel in downtown Detroit, including a role in reception, according to the lawsuit. On its website, Shinola Hotel says it is a "luxury" hotel.

Jackson's attorney, Jon Marko, provided CNN with a copy of Jackson's resume, which details consistent employment, including previous roles as a "Front Desk Agent" at Detroit's Marriott Westin Book Cadillac and David Whitney Hotel, which use the words luxury and luxurious to describe their respective hotels.

"Mr. Jackson had applied for a job that he was eminently qualified for," Marko, a civil rights attorney, told CNN. However, Shinola Hotel did not offer Jackson an interview.

After getting no response to his initial job applications, in April 2024 Jackson applied again, making one significant change to his application — his name.

According to the lawsuit, Jackson applied to Shinola Hotel "twice for similar positions under a more readily apparent Caucasian name, with the alias 'John Jebrowski,'" using nearly identical resumes. The resumes have different dates of previous employment.

He was offered multiple interviews within the same week, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit alleges that "Jackson established that the Defendant's consideration of candidates was based on the racial appearance of the applicant's name."

"To be denied a job in 2024 in your hometown, for the color of your skin, goes beyond dollars and cents. It goes into the psyche of a person," Marko said.

Sage Hospitality Group is Shinola Hotel's operating partner. Anna Stancioff, Sage Hospitality's senior corporate director of public relations and brand communications and spokesperson for the hotel said in an email Tuesday, "We take this allegation very seriously and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We are committed to fostering an inclusive workplace where everyone has the opportunity to succeed and are dedicated to building a diverse workforce that reflects the community."

According to Marko, Jackson attended the job interview and confronted the interviewer at Shinola Hotel. He revealed his real identity and expressed his belief that he was not given an interview initially because his name appeared more traditionally African American.

"Shortly after Jackson underwent the interview process, he was informed that he was no longer a viable candidate for the position," the lawsuit states.

Marko said employment discrimination is not unusual. He added, as a civil rights attorney, "We've seen a lot of discrimination in hiring, especially when it comes to the exclusion of minorities and individuals who have minority-sounding names."

A recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that name bias is a prevalent issue in the hiring process. Researchers sent out identical resumes to 108 U.S. employers to analyze whether race and gender affected callback rates for job applications. Resumes with Black male and Black female names received the fewest callbacks.

But, Marko said, proving cases of name bias is extremely challenging and most of these cases never get off the ground due to a lack of evidence.

Jackson's case is different, he said, because he applied twice for similar positions with nearly the exact same resume and it yielded different results when he used the alias.

Marko said Jackson "wants to shed light on this problem that's not just isolated at the Shinola Hotel, not just isolated in Detroit or Michigan, but across the country. He wants to make sure that it doesn't happen to anyone else."

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