Donald Trump Says ‘I Don’t Settle,’ But We Found 13 Times He Did.
Itzel Hudek already had a history of asthma, migraines, and cardiovascular disease when she became pregnant while working for the Trump National Doral Miami hotel. So she quickly told her supervisor that while she’d still be able to keep doing her job, she’d need to take time off every so often for doctor’s appointments and testing. She had paid time off saved up, and said that if she went over, she planned to come to work earlier or stay later to make up the difference.
Hudek didn’t have reason to fear for her job. She said that for the 13 months she worked for Trump National as a reservations supervisor, she consistently received positive performance reviews, and was even rated outstanding in one of her reviews.
That outstanding review would turn out to be her last. In a lawsuit brought against her employer in 2014, Hudek alleged that her supervisor “expressed displeasure and appeared agitated” about the pregnancy and the need for Hudek to take time off. A few weeks later, she said she was told to train another employee to do her job duties — and was laid off shortly after. Hudek was told she was being let go because her position was being eliminated for economic reasons and wasn’t given the option to take a different job.
Instead, Hudek said she later learned her position was given to an employee who wasn’t pregnant, had less experience, and yet still earned more. Trump National disputed her claims.
In the end, Hudek came out on top, winning an undisclosed settlement with Trump Miami in 2015. But she’s not alone in successfully suing Trump-owned companies over her treatment at work. While the real estate mogul and likely Republican presidential nominee has boasted numerous times that he “never settles,” a ThinkProgress records review shows otherwise: Trump’s various business entities have in fact settled at least 13 employment-related lawsuits between 1990 and 2014. Two other suits were only dismissed after his company entered bankruptcy.
Settlements don’t necessarily mean that there were formal findings or admissions that his firms engaged in discriminatory or illegal conduct. However, while Trump businesses tout the exceptional workplace they foster, the lawsuits allege a range of discriminatory practices against employees. (Cases that did not result in a settlement for the plaintiff were not included.)
The lawsuits touch many facets of his real estate and entertainment empire: Complaints were filed against his television production company, his now mostly defunct chain of casinos, and his hotel and resort management businesses. Each of the companies were owned and/or directly controlled by Trump at the time of the suits.
The companies in this empire assure prospective employees that they will be treated well. Trump Hotels promises its employees it has “an unsurpassed regard” for them and that the company “is committed to creating a rewarding, positive work environment.” Trump bragged that getting a shot to be a Trump Organization executive by successfully passing through the gauntlet of his reality TV show The Apprentice would mean “the dream job of a lifetime.”
In response to a request for comment on the cases, Alan Garten, general counsel for The Trump Organization, pointed out that most of the cases go back a decade and “the vast majority involve, Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc., the publicly traded company that runs the casinos in Atlantic City. That company, however, has a completely separate management team and Mr. Trump has not been involved in the day to day operation and management of that company for close to 10 years.” The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuits do in fact start many years ago — though the cases against Trump’s Atlantic City casinos preceded his divestment from those companies. A case filed in the early 1980s claimed that the mogul’s Trump-Equitable Fifth Avenue Company hired a contractor to demolish a building in New York City, and the contractor brought in 200 undocumented Polish workers called the “Polish Brigade” to get the job done on time, according to PolitiFact. Beyond questions raised regarding the workers’ legal status, there were also charges about their pay: In the lawsuit, Trump and the contractor were accused of paying them $4 to $5 an hour without overtime, even though they were working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. Some workers said they never saw any money.
The lawsuit also claimed that by hiring these workers, Trump and the contractor cheated a union out of funds. For his part, Trump claimed that he never knew the workers were undocumented and laid the blame with the contractor. But in the early ’90s, a judge ruled against him, holding that he owed the workers about $325,000 plus interest and attorneys’ fees. After Trump appealed, the case dragged on for another decade, only to end with a sealed settlement in 1999.
While that case was pending, Andre Williams, an African American man, sued Trump’s Taj Mahal casino over what he saw as racially discriminatory practices. Despite his many years of experience and positive work record, Williams felt that he and other black employees were passed over for promotions. There was “a workplace climate of racial issues,” said Vera McCoy, who represented him at the time, in an interview with ThinkProgress. Williams alleged that when he brought up being passed over for promotions, he was retaliated against. Trump elected to settle in 1997, and Williams received an undisclosed amount of money.
In 2005, James Schottel, a quadriplegic injured in a college accident, sued Trump Productions over allegations that the application to be a contestant on The Apprentice automatically, and illegally, disqualified people like him. Given that the whole premise of the show was one long interview for an executive position with The Trump Organization, Schottel argued that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act to state, as the materials did, that applicants had to be in “excellent physical and mental health.”
Schottel, an otherwise healthy 32-year-old with a Bachelors’ of Science in math, a law degree, his own law practice, and a patented invention, argued that he should be considered. “To be a corporate executive, I don’t need to run a flight of steps,” he told the Lawrence Journal-World at the time.
Schottel prevailed, reaching a settlement with the producers of the show in which they agreed to change the application but didn’t admit to any wrongdoing. The new forms clarified that “all applicants who believe they meet our criteria, including persons with disabilities, are welcome and encouraged to apply to be a participant.” (Schottel was not selected to be a contestant.)
Guy Dorcinvil, a dishwasher and cleaner at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, sued his employer in 2007, charging that the club was stealing wages from him and his coworkers. For three years, his complaint alleged, he would often work more than 40 hours a week, yet he wouldn’t get any time-and-a-half compensation when he worked the overtime hours. That skimmed pay, he calculated at the time, could have amounted to as much as several thousand dollars. Even as he brought the lawsuit, he said that some of his coworkers were still putting in long weeks without getting extra pay. He netted a four-figure settlement, though Mar-A-Lago made no admission of guilt.
Despite these repeated examples of Trump settlements, Trump has repeatedly defended his refusal to settle fraud suits against his now-defunct Trump University. “I don’t settle cases. You know what happens? When you start settling lawsuits, everybody sues you,” he told MSNBC in March. “I don’t get sued because I don’t settle cases. I win in court.”
But even with these numerous challenges to his employment practices, one person remains bullish on Trump’s job record. “I will tell you this, and I can say it with certainty: I will be the greatest jobs-producing president that God ever created,” Trump vowed in a campaign video. “I love the subject, I love doing it, and I love helping people. And there’s nothing like helping people than [sic] getting them and their family great jobs.”