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Legal Issues

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
4th amendment, guest lists, ice, motels, privacy

Companies:
motel 6



Motel 6 Agrees To Pay $7.6 Million Settlement For Sending Guest Lists To ICE

from the come-for-the-limited-amenities!-stay-for-the-unprovoked-roustings! dept

Motel 6 franchise owners suddenly decided it was their job to play part-time cop/immigration officer and use their paying customers as grist for the laughably-named criminal justice system. One branch began faxing guest lists to the local PD without any prompting from the recipient agency. Another decided anyone who didn't look American (guess what that means) should be reported to ICE.

This drew the attention of the internet. It also drew the attention of the Washington state attorney general. Finally, it drew the attention of the federal court system, but not for the reasons these self-appointed posse members expected. The chain was hit with a class action lawsuit alleging privacy violations related to the unprompted reporting of Hispanic guests to ICE.

This is going to cost the motel chain some of its light money, as Reuters reports.

Motel 6 will pay up to $7.6 million to Hispanic guests to settle a proposed class-action lawsuit claiming that it violated their privacy by regularly providing guest lists to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

The chain (of course) admitted no liability nor agreed that it had engaged in unconstitutional activities. Instead, it mumbled something about "recognizing the seriousness of the situation" and that it would, at some point in the near future, respect the privacy of its guests.

The respect will be mandatory if the full settlement is approved by the court.

Motel 6 also agreed to a two-year consent decree barring it from sharing guest data with immigration authorities absent warrants, subpoenas, or threats of serious crime or harm.

I guess the feeling must be that two years of not screwing paying customers out of their privacy will result in the creation of good habits. That seems unlikely to have a permanent effect, so it would have been nice to see this consent decree govern the chain's behavior in perpetuity, but you take what you can get.

This isn't necessarily Motel 6's fault -- at least not at the corporate level. There's no indication the chain's owner, G6 Hospitality, ever instructed franchise operators to engage in these activities. These appear to have been initiatives specific to some Motel 6 locations in Arizona. They were uncovered by the Phoenix New Times's examination of court records and confirmed by Motel 6 employees who said they "just pushed a button" to send guest lists to ICE.

These freelance ICE operative have screwed the Constitutional pooch so badly their parent company will be paying out the equivalent of ~110,000 overnight stays. Whatever discomfort they caused their guests will hopefully pale in comparison to the heat they're feeling now.

The proposed order [PDF] is embedded below.


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  • identicon
    Agammamon, 8 Nov 2018 @ 12:14pm

    >Motel 6 will pay up to $7.6 million to Hispanic guests to settle a proposed class-action lawsuit claiming that it violated their privacy by regularly providing guest lists

    Why Hispanic customers specifically. Providing the guest list violated the privacy of all guest equally - regardless of their ethnicity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      stderric (profile), 8 Nov 2018 @ 12:50pm

      Re:

      From the Reuters article, it looks like it breaks down as follows:

      • $5.6mil goes to guests who "faced immigration removal proceedings"
      • $1mil to guests that were interrogated by ICE
      • $1mil to anyone who had their info sent in
      • $1.3mil for legal fees

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Nov 2018 @ 12:38pm

    I also doubt they refunded the money when someone was picked up by ICE. If they were concerned about undocumented people renting rooms, they should have just refused service instead of accepting money and then keeping it when the stormtroopers hauled their guests away.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Christenson, 8 Nov 2018 @ 12:57pm

      Re: Racism at any cost

      More than that, the local owner must have decided he didn't want "Hispanic" types in his motels...

      even if it meant selling fewer rooms
      even if it meant the company paying out millions

      If motel 6 is smart, they will drop the particular franchise owner before they get sued again for something else equally egregious.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Nov 2018 @ 3:19pm

      Re:

      >they should have just refused service....

      Bad idea. They'd have been served with an instant "equal accommodations" lawsuit that they COULDN'T refuse.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Nov 2018 @ 1:14pm

    Short term memory

    Hey blue, remember defending this tripe?


    Techdirt Farms remembers

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    B Ackwards, 8 Nov 2018 @ 2:25pm

    No problem with AG pressure for causes you like!

    1) Motel 6 (or employee without corporate approval) has done nothing actionable.

    2) Motel 6 HAS informed of criminals.

    3) AG is violating Motel 6's 1st Amendment and freedom of association.

    4) It's just cheaper, and usually you'd argue that such pressure to fight an expensive lawsuit is wrong.

    But you left-liberal-globalists who favor unlimited immigration see nothing wrong when it's for a cause that you favor.

    Lower than hypocrites are masnocrits.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Nov 2018 @ 2:31pm

      Re: No problem with AG pressure for causes you like!

      You, as usual, have no idea what you're talking about.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Nov 2018 @ 2:49pm

      Re: No problem with leaving the light on

      You can’t even spell your made up portmanteau right.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 8 Nov 2018 @ 2:51pm

      Motel 6 (or employee without corporate approval) has done nothing actionable.

      The employees who ratted on guests to I.C.E. may have made false reports of a person’s alleged criminality based only (or primarily) on the ethnicity of that person. I would definitely refer to “racial profiling with the intent to have Hispanic/Latinx people arrested because they happened to interact with a racist motel employee, possibly done with the consent and knowledge of management for both that motel and its parent company” as an “actionable” act.

      Motel 6 HAS informed of criminals.

      How do you know, with the absolute certainty available only to a omniscient deity, that every Hispanic/Latinx person reported by Motel 6 employees was a criminal?

      AG is violating Motel 6's 1st Amendment and freedom of association.

      Motel 6 has every right to refuse associating with criminals. Now prove every Hispanic/Latinx person that was reported to I.C.E. was also a criminal, and prove it without relying on their ethnicity as the only (or primary) factor in your deductions, and I will gladly defend Motel 6 in this regard.

      It's just cheaper, and usually you'd argue that such pressure to fight an expensive lawsuit is wrong.

      Motel 6 likely has more money than all the defendants combined. That a settlement occured tells me management did not want to risk a much larger judgment against the company and a finding of fault that could be entered into public records. A settlement here ensures a small(er) payout than if the company had lost in court and the company dodging the bullet of having responsibility for what its racist employees did foisted on management.

      you left-liberal-globalists

      Every time you use the word “globalist”, I have to wonder how much you hate Jewish people. Did you jerk yourself off when you heard about that recent synagogue shooting, by any chance?

      who favor unlimited immigration

      [citation needed]

      (I personally favor a smarter and more compassionate immigration system that does not, say, tear children away from migrant families.)

      see nothing wrong when it's for a cause that you favor

      …says the guy who is unironically defending Motel 6 employees for reporting people to I.C.E. based only (or primarily) on their ethnicity, likely without any other proof that the people in question are criminals.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      cob3, 8 Nov 2018 @ 3:39pm

      Re: AG pressure

      @B Ackwards:

      yeah, the formal legal case against MOTEL6-Corporate is very weak to non-existent.
      What specific statute did MOTEL6 violate?

      MOTEL6 wisely chose to settle out of court, avoiding a much more costly legal battle ans lots more bad publicity. State and Federal prosecutors do not actually need you to be guilty of any offense to convict you -- they hold all the cards and rarely lose in court.

      Tons of companies (especially online) share your personal info with whoever they feel like.
      But there are always formal Terms-of-of-Service contracts in effect at U.S. motels/hotels and they are usually written in the motel's favor. And cops routinely make informal, warrantless inquiries to hotels about hotel customers.

      Prosecute the specific guilty employees under a specific statute.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Christenson, 8 Nov 2018 @ 3:49pm

        Re: Re: AG pressure

        Missing the important point: If you are in court, you have lost, and noone in contact with the system is ever made whole.

        As seen with Backpage (which in the end, *does* seem to have been doing things illegally) and Kim DotCom (still not convicted, how many years running now?), Motel 6 has decided its better to just pay and forget about it than endlessly fight an ongoing, distracting lawsuit and/or prosecutions which could bankrupt the company directly through the lawyers or indirectly through a combination of bad publicity and other bad management decisions.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    (Not Really) Tom Bodett, 8 Nov 2018 @ 2:27pm

    Motel 6, we'll leave the light on for ya.

    Matter of fact any chance you stand a little closer to the light, and speak a bit louder too?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan, 8 Nov 2018 @ 4:20pm

    "Unconstitutional"?

    The chain (of course) admitted no liability nor agreed that it had engaged in unconstitutional activities.

    Well, let's see. Motel 6 is not the government. They aren't part of the government. They weren't acting on behalf of, or at the behest of, anyone in the government, as you yourself note. The Constitution, of course, regulates how the government operates. So in what possible way could the chain, any of its employees, or any of its franchisees have been doing anything unconstitutional?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 8 Nov 2018 @ 4:33pm

      Re: "Unconstitutional"?

      It acted in the benefit of law enforcement. I am not sure what the legal term is, but when a private entity acts for law enforcement they have to follow the rules of law enforment, which is a government entity. This is not in question, and I suspect someone will point out the correct legal reference.

      I remember, several decades ago, when some of our employees were doing drugs on our premise, that the cops involved took the employees inside for questioning. I took it upon myself to go around the parking lot and found their 'equipment' tucked under a car, but otherwise in plain site. I then pointed out to the cops where this stuff was. Had I known better, I would have done neither, but maybe suggested to the cops that they search the parking lot, and under cars.

      I could have caused us, the hotel and my employers, a lot of trouble. Fortunately that did not happen.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Nov 2018 @ 6:04pm

        Re: Re: "Unconstitutional"?

        Acting under colour of law, I believe. Possibly in the same realm as Geek Squad employees acting on behalf of the FBI, going through people’s computers looking for illegal shit.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Dan, 8 Nov 2018 @ 7:41pm

        Re: Re: "Unconstitutional"?

        It doesn't work that way. If I decide, on my own, to give information to the government, that doesn't make me a state actor (it's a completely different story if the government solicited it), and it certainly doesn't mean I'm acting under color of law (that's where I have, or appear to have, state authority, and act under that authority). Your action may (or may not) have violated the law, but it wasn't unconstitutional.

        Motel 6 was clearly in the wrong--any number of common-law torts, and no doubt statutory violations as well. But no, it wasn't in any way unconstitutional.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous, 8 Nov 2018 @ 7:57pm

        Re: Re: "Unconstitutional"?

        So if I see someone robbing a house and call the police, I am “acting to the benefit of law enforcement”, and so infringing on the constitutional rights of criminals?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2018 @ 4:36am

          Re: Re: Re: "Unconstitutional"?

          If you did something one time, perhaps you're just a concerned citizen. But when you begin regularly providing information to the government, then, imho, yes you are now acting as part of the government.

          Otherwise the government could easily slip through that loophole and we'd all become "watched". Is it that hard to see that the result would be a country that looks a lot like the USSR where everyone was afraid of being apprehended based on neighbor informants?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Dan, 9 Nov 2018 @ 5:43am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: "Unconstitutional"?

            But when you begin regularly providing information to the government, then, imho, yes you are now acting as part of the government.

            Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), your HO isn't the state of the law. If a private citizen (individual or organization) decides, on their own, to provide information to the government, that doesn't mean they're "acting as part of the government"--regardless of whether it's a single instance or a regular thing. What makes it (or can make it) government action is if the government solicited that information. If ICE, the local PD, or any other agency requested/demanded that information, then it can be considered government action.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 8 Nov 2018 @ 7:03pm

    We Will...

    Motel Six. We'll leave the database open for you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    roebling (profile), 9 Nov 2018 @ 5:16am

    Phone companies next?

    Big Telcoms famously gave access to Big Brother to facilitate warrantless spying on Americans. Where's that lawsuit?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 9 Nov 2018 @ 6:20am

    'This is bad and you can't do it... for two years.'

    Motel 6 also agreed to a two-year consent decree barring it from sharing guest data with immigration authorities absent warrants, subpoenas, or threats of serious crime or harm.

    They were taken to court over the action, with the judge and prosecutor agreeing that they shouldn't have done it, yet the consent degree specifically barring them from doing it only last two years? Will the actions in question magically become acceptable in two years, because otherwise I see no reason not to make that a permanent prohibition, making it clear it's not acceptable even after two years have passed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2018 @ 6:59am

    A lot of double standards here

    I just love all the double standards here.

    The payouts should be equally spread, regardless of who faced ICE or not. The fact that you faced ICE is a problem caused by the person and NOT Motel 6.

    But it's normal for the lefties here to support racist judgements.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 9 Nov 2018 @ 9:08am

      Re: A lot of double standards here

      The payouts should be equally spread, regardless of who faced ICE or not. The fact that you faced ICE is a problem caused by the person and NOT Motel 6.

      Yeah, because ICE would never persecute an innocent person based solely on their race.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2018 @ 2:25pm

      Re: A lot of double standards here

      I love how you right wing nut jobs just can’t stop projecting your flaws into others. It’s psych 101 and you idiots fail it every time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 9 Nov 2018 @ 4:13pm

      The fact that you faced ICE is a problem caused by the person and NOT Motel 6.

      If a Motel 6 employee told I.C.E. that a Hispanic man suspected of being an illegal immigrant was staying at a given Motel, but that Hispanic man was a legal citizen of the United States, how is the Hispanic man responsible for an issue caused by the Motel 6 employee being a racist snitch?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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