Ex-clerk sues elite Detroit Club, alleging discrimination, unfair dress code enforcement 

Maria Victoria Ferrer says she was fired "abruptly" after expressing her unease over racist conduct at The Detroit Club.

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An elite private social club is being sued by a former front desk clerk who alleges its management mistreats Black guests, enforces its dress code differently between white and Black patrons, and referred to people as “street rats.” 

“You’ll feel at home whether you are a tenured member or a first-time visitor,” the 130-year-old Detroit Club declares on its website. However, the former staffer and reviews on Google in recent months proclaim that the statement does not ring true, according to The Detroit Free Press

The historic Detroit Club has been sued for alleged race discrimination, accused of mistreating Black guests and retaliating against an employee who reported it. (Photo: Kimberly P. Mitchell/USA TODAY NETWORK)

Maria Victoria Ferrer is the former Detroit Club front desk clerk who filed the federal lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court. The woman, who is Latina, says she was fired “abruptly” in April after expressing her unease over racist conduct. The report notes that the lawsuit claims Ferrer — who is seeking an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages after being employed for a month — was told she was “too sensitive about racial discrimination.” 

The private club is located in downtown Detroit and has hosted an array of celebrities, presidents and other dignitaries. Yet, Ferrer alleges her disapproval over the club’s owner, Lynn Uralli, referring to someone as a “street rat” led to her dismissal, according to the report. 

Ferrer also says that The Detroit Club enforced its strict dress code in a discriminatory way. She claims that in early April, she checked a Black couple into their room while out of dress code, explaining it to them when they emerged later. While the couple did offer to “obtain proper attire” —a supervisor interjected telling the complaining woman, “We have a dress code here, and if you don’t like it you can leave.” Ferrer asserted that her supervisor had no objections when white couples not following Detroit Club dress codes checked into its rooms.

Ferrer said she then complained to Uralli, who reportedly asked her, “Do you think you’re Black?” 

The customer who was called a “street rat” supported Ferrer’s allegation in a Google review prior to the lawsuit, writing, “Racist owner do not recommend anyone staying. me and my girlfriend stepped in to use a restroom and the desk lady allowed us … The owner of the hotel went to the desk lady … saying street rats are not allowed … I told her that was completely wrong … and she didn’t seem to care at all.”

The club disputed the incident in a reply to the review. 

A Detroit Club bartender quit after Ferrer’s termination, also alleging racist behavior, and he was subsequently targeted by Uralli, who sent him threatening text messages. One read: “I am going to destroy you. You have no idea what you started. … You are a liar and you are insane and you are going to pay for the attempt of defaming my business.”

The Detroit Club has not responded to Ferrer’s lawsuit.

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