Reputation and trust are worth their weight in gold, and Motel 6 is taking its first steps toward reclaiming traveler confidence after mishandling guests’ information. Following a class-action lawsuit, Motel 6 has agreed to pay up to $7.6 million to Latino guests who say employees shared their private information with immigration agents in 2017, and further legal action is on the horizon.
The proposal settlement was filed in federal court, contingent on approval from a federal judge in the U.S. District Court in Arizona.
The allegations came from former guests, who in January claimed Motel 6 provided their personal information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. As part of the settlement, Motel 6, which is owned by G6 Hospitality, agreed it would no longer share guest information without a warrant or subpoena unless necessary to prevent “a significant crime,” according to court documents.
Related story: Arizona Motel 6 employees lead ICE to undocumented guests
A joint statement released by Motel 6 and Los Angeles’ Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund said that following the revelation that select Motel 6 properties were sharing guest information, the hotel company “launched an investigation and issued a clear directive to all locations nationwide, emphasizing that the practice is prohibited.”
Motel 6 and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund have since released a statement on the matter: "Plaintiffs and Motel 6 have filed a proposed settlement agreement that would resolve the lawsuit between the two parties if it is approved by the district court. In September 2017, when this issue emerged, the company launched an investigation and issued a clear directive to all locations nationwide, emphasizing that the practice is prohibited. Motel 6 fully recognizes the seriousness of the situation and accepts full responsibility for both compensating those who were harmed and taking the necessary steps to ensure that we protect the privacy of our guests.
"As part of the agreement, Motel 6 has implemented additional controls to protect private information and enhance corporate oversight in cases where law enforcement requests information, including when lawful requests are made," the statement continued. "The agreement, if approved by the court, would also establish a claims process for both named plaintiffs and others who were impacted by the sharing of guest information with immigration authorities."
Guest privacy remains a major sticking point in today’s travel environment, and the penalties in this case reflect that. Following the settlement, further class-action members could join the case in the future, and Motel 6 could be expected to pay as much as $8.9 million, including reimbursement for legal fees and administrative costs.
The suit focused on two Motel 6 locations in Phoenix, where guests’ personal information and whereabouts were shared with U.S. immigration officers, leading to at least seven arrests. Those arrested, as well as an eighth guest whose information also was provided to ICE agents, went on to file the lawsuit against Motel 6. Following these revelations, Motel 6 said its Phoenix employees would no longer work in tandem with immigration agents.
In one case, a woman was deported from the U.S. and a man spent 30 days in a detention center before raising a $7,500 bond.
In January, Washington state Attorney General Bon Ferguson sued Motel 6 for providing guests’ personal information to ICE agents as a result of an investigation in that state following the reports in Phoenix. Information shared with agents included names, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, license-plate numbers and room numbers for at least 9,150 guests in Washington.
At the time of the lawsuit, six corporate-owned and 15 franchised Motel 6 hotels in Washington were under investigation, with the lawsuit noting five of these locations did not disclose any guest information.
ICE has not been a target in either lawsuit, and has not responded for requests to comment at this time.