State AG sues Motel 6 for violating privacy of, discriminating against thousands

Motel 6 provided guests’ personal information to law enforcement without warrant

  • Wednesday, January 3, 2018 12:12pm
  • Business
State AG Bob Ferguson.

State AG Bob Ferguson.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Wednesday announced a lawsuit against national hotel chain Motel 6 for voluntarily providing guest lists to agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on a routine basis for at least two years.

Each time Motel 6 released a guest list, it included the name and private information of every guest at the hotel, according to a state Attorney General’s Office news release.

The Attorney General’s Office began to investigate Motel 6 locations in Washington after two Motel 6 locations in Arizona made national news for voluntarily providing guests’ personal information to ICE. Motel 6 admits that at least six of its Washington state locations (including SeaTac) shared personal information of its guests with ICE. This lead to significant consequences including the detention of at least six individuals.

Specifically, four of those locations released the personal information of at least 9,151 guests to ICE, even though its privacy policy assured consumers it would protect this information. Motel 6 admits that two additional locations shared this private information with ICE, but has not provided details regarding the number of individuals affected. The personal information released included customers’ driver’s license numbers, room number, name, guest identification number, date of birth and license plate number. The voluntary release of this information constitutes an unfair and deceptive business practice, and violates the Consumer Protection Act.

Additionally, Ferguson asserts that Motel 6 knew that ICE used its guest lists to target customers based on national origin, including customers with Latino-sounding names. Motel 6’s actions constituted discrimination against these individuals based on their national origin, a violation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination.

The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, asserts that Motel 6 committed thousands of violations of the Consumer Protection Act and hundreds of violations of the Washington Law Against Discrimination. Motel 6 admits ICE detained at least six people as a result of this practice on or near Motel 6 property.

“After news reports in Arizona revealed Motel 6 staff was handing over guests’ private information, Motel 6 implied this was a local problem,” Ferguson said. “We have found that is not true. Washingtonians have a right to privacy, and protection from discrimination. I will hold Motel 6 accountable and uncover the whole story of their disturbing conduct.”

Motel 6 has more than 1,200 locations across North America with more than 105,000 rooms. The company owns and operates 26 locations in Washington, including both company-owned and franchise-owned motels. All six locations mentioned in the lawsuit are corporate-owned motels.

In September 2017, a reporter in Arizona published reports that Motel 6 voluntarily provided guest lists to ICE without a warrant at two corporate-owned locations in the Phoenix area, leading to the detention of at least 20 individuals in Arizona. After the story made national news, Motel 6 released a short statement that the practice of providing guest information to ICE was “implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management.”

The Attorney General’s Office began investigating the motel chain’s Washington locations in September and discovered that the incidents in Arizona were not isolated.

The office interviewed several people who have worked at these Motel 6 locations in Washington. During the Attorney General’s investigation, Motel 6 admitted that at least six Washington Motel 6 locations provided guest registry information to ICE agents since at least 2015: Bellingham, North Everett, South Everett, South Seattle, SeaTac and South Tacoma.

The Attorney General’s investigators discovered that over a two-year period, four of the six locations released the information of more than 9,000 guests. The company provided no details regarding two of those six locations, and only partial information for the other four locations.

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