HR knew. The District Manager knew. The guests knew. Yet, she was fired, while the Manager got to keep his job.
In late summer of 2019, Grace Vaughn was the assistant manager at the Wood Springs Suite in Denton, TX. When the manager was terminated, a new manager was was hired in her place. Grace trained the new manager, Fasial Khan, for the first 2 weeks he was there and everything seemed alright at first. Little did she know, that she would soon be experiencing racial slurs and racist harassment so severe, she would leave her job crying on almost a daily basis.
(The reason this story must be brought to the light, is to show the severity of racism, which can still be found in 2020 and how one company turned a blind eye, robbing a victim from justice.)
However, as soon as the training was over, everything changed. On the first day after the training, Grace and Mr. Khan were in the elevator together, and when Grace tried to exit, Mr. Khan stopped her. He said to her that she was not allowed to walk in front of him, because she was a woman, and she always had to walk behind him.
Mr. Khan’s behavior only escalated from there.
Within weeks of Mr. Khan working there, he told Grace that she was not allowed to work at the front desk anymore and if any guests came in, he instructed her not to tell them she was the assistant manager.
Less than a month after Mr. Khan’s employment began, Grace was at the front of the building, and the two housekeepers came down and told Grace they were quitting. The reason they were quitting was because of the way that Mr. Khan both spoke to and treated them.
One of those housekeepers was Earlene Ballentine, who I spoke with on the phone. She said Mr. Khan was arrogant and rude to her from the moment he started working there. On the day it got so bad, that she quit, Earlene and Mr. Khan were in one of the rooms. Mr. Khan was upset and thought the room wasn’t clean enough. He threw several objects at her and then said, “N******, they aren’t worth a shit.“
Earlene didn’t have another job lined up, but she knew she couldn’t stay at that job for one more minute, so her and the other housekeeper quit in the middle of their shift.
Racism towards Grace happened daily.
When speaking to Grace, Mr. Khan would often use the N-word while talking to her. When Black guests would come into the hotel and Grace would assist them, Mr. Khan would say, “It’s good you are helping your people.”
When a 3rd Black employee departed from the company, Mr. Khan made a comment to a white employee, in front of Grace, about “No more n****** on the team.”
Mr. Khan did not want Grace interacting with the white guests. It was also apparent to everyone that there was a difference between the way Mr. Khan treated the Black employees, compared to the white employees.
Others have come forward.
Grace and Earlene were far from the only ones who had came forward regarding Mr. Khan’s racial slurs and discrimination.
Grace was initially introduce to me by a connection I have at the NAACP. Other employees, besides Earlene have given the NAACP recorded statements regarding Mr. Khan’s behavior and language towards the people of color, which worked at the Wood Springs Suites in Denton.
To the right, was a letter provided by guests of the Wood Spring Suites, Kevin and Maria Hamblin. They witnessed Mr. Khan’s treatment towards Grace and were appalled enough to write a letter on her behalf for any employment or legal issues she might have to deal with, because of this.
The racist behavior and racial slurs towards people of color, who worked at the Wood Springs Suites became well known to many.
Grace began keeping a diary and collecting audio and video evidence.
When Mr. Khan became aware of this, he told her, “No one would listen to you, being a n*****.” She often left her phone in the front office when she would clean rooms. One day, when her shift was over she went to the office to gather her belonging and found her phone was missing. She thought she lost it.
However, the next day, when she came in to work, Mr. Khan handed her the cell phone. He had gone through her entire phone and deleted everything which was related to him.
His focus on Grace became increasingly aggressive, often balling up his fists while speaking with her.
Grace contacted the company’s Human Resources.
She told Mr. Khan that she would be reporting him to HR. In response to that, he said to her, “You are black, better known as a n*****, they won’t listen to you. But, they will listen to me, because I have a lot of money.”
Despite that, Grace called HR anyway. The woman in HR told Grace that Mr. Khan had been a model employee at another location he worked at and they had not had any complaints about him before. So, they didn’t believe her about the racial slurs or aggressive behavior from Mr. Khan.
Wood Springs Suites is a franchise of Choice Hotels and is managed by Gulf Coast Hotel Management out of Kansas.
I reached out to Gulf Coast Hotel Management for a comment, however my calls were not returned.
I also reached out to Choice Hotels Corporate Office in Maryland, they also declined to make a statement.
Why didn’t she just quit?
Many Americans know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck, Grace was no different. She was a single mom, struggling to make ends meet. Quitting, without another job lined up was not a financial move she could not have afforded to make.
Plus, the company didn’t give benefits until after an employee had worked there a year. October 2019 would have been Grace’s one year anniversary. She was looking forward to having the benefit of health insurance, otherwise unavailable in a state like Texas, and desperately needed for all.
Everything eventually came to a head.
Grace and Mr. Khan were in the front office together and got into some altercation. Grace tried to leave the office and Mr. Khan balled up his fists, put his hand on the door, and told her, “I could kick your butt.” He did not kick her butt, but at this point Grace was fearful of her safety and of retaliation against her for contacting HR.
So, she filed a police report.
The responding officer, who was white, Officer Kunze, took the report and suggested that Grace should “just go find another job.”
Finally, the District Manager got involved.
The company had an opening for another assistant manager position in McKinney. Grace reached out tot he district manager, Steven, to try and get transferred. When she told Steven why she wanted the transfer, he asked her to write down all of the events of harassment and racial slurs, which she experienced while working with Mr. Khan.
The next day after she wrote Steven the letter, she came into work, Steven was there. As soon as she walked in, he told her that her services would no longer be needed. That’s all he said, no other explanation was given. Texas, being an at-will employment state, really no other explanation was needed.
Steven no longer works for Wood Spring Suites.
Grace contacted the Texas Workforce Commission to file a civil rights complaint .
She was speaking with a woman there for a few weeks, had a case number, and then the woman at the TWC stopped returning her calls.
Grace contacted the NAACP.
However, the NAACP has a high case load and with limited resources and more egregious criminal cases, Grace’s case fell to the bottom of the pile.
Grace was failed at every single link in the chain.
Wood Spring Suites’ Human Resources department failed her. The District Manager failed her. The Denton police and the Texas Workforce Commission, also failed her. Her civil rights were violated and no one listened.
In 2019, Grace Vaughn was the victim of racial harassment and often the recipient of racial slurs. She followed the rules and did what society tells us we’re supposed to do. She reported it human resources, she reported it to Mr. Khan’s higher ups, she reported it the TWC, she reported it to the NAACP. But here we are today, Mr. Khan is still employed with Wood Spring Suites and although Grace has since moved on and found other employment, the mental and emotional trauma, which she suffered, still plagues her today.
Grace described to me the feeling of hopelessness she felt when reaching out, but no one was helping her or even listening. She can’t even talk about what happened with getting overwhelmed with emotion.
This is Grace’s story. For every Grace we learn about, there are hundreds of others who’s stories we never hear. In the age of Black Lives Matter, as a society, experiences like this should no longer be welcome.