A former Red Rock Country Club tennis instructor claimed she was abruptly fired in 2016 after a club member complained about the presence of her biracial daughters at an annual tennis tournament, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.
“(Whose) black kids are these?” the wealthy, white, longtime member of the affluent country club asked aloud, according to the racial discrimination suit. The member then complained to management, despite the presence of several other employees’ white children.
Five days later, the club fired the instructor, Carmel-Mary Hill.
Hill, who is white, also accused Red Rock Country Club of denying her two biracial daughters — 3 and 5 at the time — access to the club’s day care facilities, even though she later learned that other employees with white children were allowed to use the facilities, according to the suit.
The complaint alleges that when Hill asked the club’s general manager, Thom Blinkinsop, why she could not use the day care facilities but other employees could, Blinkinsop said those employees only used the facilities “occasionally,” but he never asked Hill how often she intended to use them.
Blinkinsop also said that if Hill’s children ever were to attack or assault anyone on the country club’s property, the club would be liable, so they “didn’t want to assume the risk,” according to the lawsuit.
“Plaintiff was shocked and dumbfounded by such (a) racist statement,” the suit reads, “as her daughters who were minors, and only 3 and 5 years old at the time, were always well behaved when on the premises of the country club.”
A call to Blinkinsop’s Red Rock Country Club office was not returned Thursday.
At the time of her firing, Hill was not given a reason for her termination. But the club’s director of tennis, who was ordered to carry out her termination, suggested that if he were her, he would “hire a lawyer,” according to the suit.
A man who answered the phone at the country club’s tennis desk Thursday directed the Las Vegas Review-Journal to Blinkinsop.
About five days after she was fired, Hill brought her case to the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, according to the lawsuit.
When the country club got wind of the equal rights commission complaint, Hill was banned from the club’s property, the lawsuit alleges, meaning as a coach, she could no longer attend public tournaments at the club, despite having trained clients for them.
She struggled for months to find a job, according to her attorney, F. Travis Buchanan. As the story gained traction in the local tennis community, Hill told the Review-Journal, she had to sit down with her daughters to explain the situation.
“I was honest with them about it,” Hill said. “And then my 8-year-old, who was 5 at the time, asked, ‘What’s wrong with me, Mommy?’”
After Hill’s initial complaint, the state equal rights commission settled with the country club. As part of the July settlement, the club admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to undergo new discrimination training through the commission. The club also updated its employee training manuals.
Last month, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission separately issued Hill a “right to sue” notice, and on Thursday, her attorney filed the suit against the country club.
Hill said she is nervous about moving forward with the suit but wants to make a difference by ensuring this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
She is seeking full front and back pay, employment benefits, punitive damages and compensatory damages for humiliation and emotional distress, according to the suit. She also is seeking legal fees.