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Former Marriott Vacations Sales Executive Suing for Racial Discrimination After He Was Allegedly Compared to ‘Buckwheat,’ Forced to Perform for Co-Workers

An employee who worked for Marriott Vacations Worldwide is hitting the company with a racial discrimination lawsuit and listing a host of incidents in which he was allegedly singled out over his race.

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(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Daryl Robinson filed paperwork in Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday, Dec. 20 and NBC News reported Dec. 26 he is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against Marriott. Robinson, who says he worked as a sales executive, is taking the timeshare company to court over unlawful race harassment, unlawful race discrimination, failure to prevent race discrimination and harassment and retaliation for opposing forbidden practices.

Robinson began working at the company in February 2017. He was the sole black employee in the Palm Desert, Calif., office. He says he was singled out on multiple occasions, including being asked by a director of sales in several instances to dance. Typically, he’d be asked to dance to  Michael Jackson. The suit states that the same director of sales once gave a compliment to most of the staff by remarking, “We have a good-looking crew.” Then, he looked at Robinson and supposedly said, “Daryl looks ready to break dance.”

While Robinson’s co-workers laughed at the remark, it left Robinson “completely humiliated, dejected and felt completely defeated.”

“Admittedly, one time, he did get up and dance,” Robinson’s attorney, John Dalton, said to NBC News. “There were a number of times he was asked and he was like, ‘No, no thanks.’ And when he did get up, he was the new guy. He didn’t want to make waves.”

Another time, employees were asked to submit baby photos of themselves as part of an exercise to test how well they knew one another. Robinson had told one of his colleagues who was collecting the pictures he didn’t have one to provide. He also noted that as the sole Black employee, he’d be easily picked out from the group.

Allegedly, the colleague warned him that if he didn’t submit a photo, she’d use one of the “Little Rascals” character Buckwheat. Robinson claims he told her the image was a racist stereotype that debases the Black community and that it was inappropriate and would offend him if she used it.

Despite that, the colleague used the photo for the exercise anyway. Showing the picture to the group she asked, “Who do you guys think this is?”

The move prompted Robinson to burst into tears and walk out of the room. Dalton said his client’s two supervisors apologized.

Another allegation is that Robinson says he was given insufficient working space. Rather than being in a cubical like his co-workers, he was placed in a “cramped” storage closet with no air conditioning. Supposedly, one colleague wondered if he was put there based on his race.

The incidents led Robinson’s doctor to put him on medical leave due to his anxiety, his lawyer said. The former exec resigned from his position with Marriott on January 1, 2018.

Dalton said he took several months leading a probe into his client’s allegations and he was able to corroborate them with Robinson’s former co-workers.

“We are aware of the allegations of this suit but as a policy, do not comment on legal issues and matters,” Marriott Vacations Worldwide spokesman Ed Kinney told NBC News on Dec. 19.

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