According to a damning new report by the Los Angeles Times based on documents from a 2012 labor relations lawsuit and a separate retaliation claim, employees at Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes spoke of a “toxic” work culture in which woman employees were either fired or pressured to quit if managers, or Trump himself, questioned their attractiveness.
A lawsuit targeting Trump development company VH Property Corp mostly focused on the golf course’s allegedly terrible work culture, with employees claiming they weren’t allowed to take the breaks required under California law. (This part of the case was settled in 2013, with a $475,000 payout to employees who had complained about the break policy but without any acknowledgement of wrongdoing; an attorney with the Trump Organization told the Times they have “always complied with all wage laws.”)
Settled separately, under confidential terms, was former restaurant host Lucy Messerschmidt’s claim that she was fired after complaining about age discrimination (she was 45 at the time). Several employees filed statements in support of this claim. (“We do not engage in discrimination of any kind,” the Trump attorney told the Times, calling the allegations “meritless.”)
From the Times:
Gail Doner, who worked as a food server from 2007 to 2011, wrote that she was 60 and had often been frustrated by the inefficiency of the restaurant’s young, inexperienced hostesses, who “usually were not competent but were kept anyway.”
“The hostesses that were the youngest and the prettiest always got the best shifts,” Doner wrote.
Employees spoke of an environment in which female employees were treated more like decorative objects than functional humans, with their jobs allegedly at risk if they weren’t considered pretty enough. This extremely regressive culture doesn’t appear to have manifested out of thin air:
On one visit, Trump saw “a young, attractive hostess working named Nicole ... and directed that she be brought to a place where he was meeting with a group of men,” former Trump restaurant manager Charles West said in his declaration.
“After this woman had been presented to him, Mr. Trump said to his guests something like, ‘See, you don’t have to go to Hollywood to find beautiful women,’” West said. “He also turned to Nicole and asked her, ‘Do you like Jewish men?’”
And another fun anecdote:
“Although I am a grown woman in my forties, Mr. Trump regularly greeted me with expressions like ‘how’s my favorite girl?’” Bolsajian said in a declaration. “Later, after he learned (by asking me) that I was married — and happily so — he regularly asked, ‘are you still happily married?’ whenever he saw me.”
Bolsajian said, “In short, I consistently found Mr. Trump to be overly familiar and unprofessional.”
According to a sworn declaration from Hayley Strozier, a former director of catering at the club, “I had witnessed Donald Trump tell managers many times while he was visiting the club that restaurant hostesses were ‘not pretty enough’ and that they should be fired and replaced with more attractive women.” To avoid this, she said that managers would schedule the most attractive employees to work whenever Trump was around.
According to Strozier, over the course of a year two separate managers requested that Strozier fire the same overweight employee—who she considered talented—because they believed Trump wouldn’t like her weight. She recalled that Vincent Stellio, a Trump Organization vice president (he died in 2010), told her “Mr. Trump doesn’t like fat people.” When she refused to fire the employee, Stellio came up with a plan “of hiding [the employee] whenever Mr. Trump was on the premises.”
Apart from these claims, Trump has been known to hire women entirely on the basis of their looks—in 2007, Mother Jones recently pointed out, he bragged about hiring a “17 or 18"-year-old woman with no experience because she was hot. Beautiful women, he told the audience at the Learning Annex event, are his “alcoholism.”
If this weren’t Donald Trump we were talking about, a report like this from the LA Times might be considered a “game-changer”; unfortunately, in the nightmare alterna-universe we are living in, it is simply “Thursday.” None of these allegations are particularly surprising coming from a beauty pageant owner who aggressively body-shamed former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, called Rosie O’Donnell a “fat pig” at a televised Republican primary debate, and has insulted the looks and “stamina” of his female opponents. Although it does remain difficult to understand how a pickled mountain troll manages this without a hint of irony.
Read the full Los Angeles Times report here.