Victorian-era Multicultural Commissioner to file human rights complaint against Sorrento Hotel

A Victorian-era multicultural commissioner said he would file a human rights complaint against a seaside venue for discrimination after they denied him entry because of his clothes.

Shankar Kasynathan, who was appointed Commissioner of the Victorian Multicultural Commission in September 2019, said he would file a complaint with the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission following an incident at the Sorrento Hotel on Saturday evening .

He, his 20-year-old nephew and a friend were told they weren’t allowed in because they weren’t wearing “collared shirts”.

“We were in jeans and closed shoes, [my nephew] I was wearing a t-shirt and had a black sleeveless button-down shirt, ”Mr. Kasynathan said.

While his shirt was sleeveless, Mr Kasynathan said it was a “sleeveless kurta”, which he would not define as a “singlet”.

As Mr. Kasynathan and his nephew returned to their car, they noticed a group of people walking towards the pub in T-shirts and shorts.

“[My nephew] also pointed out that there were a whole bunch of people gathered in the outdoor space who were also in T-shirts, ”he said.

The Sorrento hotel did not respond to the ABC.(Facebook: Hotel Sorrento)

Mr Kasynathan returned to the pub to ask why they weren’t allowed in and asked for a copy of the dress code.

He then said he received a “disdainfully” response and was told that the police would remove him from the scene if he did not leave.

Mr Kasynathan said he believed hotel staff had refused him and his nephew entry because of his race, and that he was upset by his nephew’s reaction to this. that had happened.

‘Absolutely incorrect’

A spokesperson for the Sorrento Hotel said Mr Kasynathan’s charge of discrimination was “absolutely incorrect”.

A man smiling at the camera wearing a black sleeveless button down shirt
Shankar Kasynathan and the black sleeveless button down shirt he wore on Saturday night.(Provided: Shankar Kasynathan)

They said the Sorrento Hotel has been a “multicultural employer” with “zero tolerance for racism” for 40 years.

“On Saturday, December 18 at around 9:00 p.m., three men attempted to enter the Sorrento hotel,” the spokesperson said.

“They were dressed in a manner that did not meet the hotel’s dress code requirements which go into effect at 5:00 pm each evening. Entry was denied for this reason.

“The Sorrento Hotel prides itself on being a diverse place to work that fosters inclusion with both our employees and our customer community.

“Our staff cohort is made up of people of different nationalities, racial backgrounds and age groups.”

When the ABC checked the dress code on the Sorrento Hotel’s website on Tuesday, there was no mention of a curfew, there were separate dress codes for men and women, and no restriction on “collared shirts” for men – but a restriction on “singlets”.

Since the ABC asked questions at the Sorrento Hotel, the dress code uploaded online has been changed twice.

The most recent copy included the dress code introduced at 5 p.m., the word “singlet” changed to “tank tops” and the removal of gender-specific dress requirements.

Filing a formal complaint

Mr Kasynathan said he wrote to the Sorrento Hotel on several social media platforms to describe his distress, but only received a generic response with a request to email the hotel with its complaint.

He has since received an Instagram message from the venue, but said he had not received an apology.

“I was hoping the venue had contacted me already, offering an apology, acknowledgment of wrongdoing and a commitment to better train staff to be culturally inclusive,” he said.

“It didn’t happen.”

Mr Kasynathan said he would report the incident to the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission.

“It is a forum that would offer the opportunity instead of sharing their understanding of the world, in response to mine, if they wished to participate voluntarily,” he said.

“It is not often that a Commissioner for Multicultural Affairs in Victoria has the opportunity to test our institutions, our laws and our processes and see what it would be like for an everyday Victorian to go through the channels that the state provided to combat racism. “

Man in his 30s adoringly gazing at younger man, black and white piece
Shankar Kasynathan says her nephew was shaking after the incident.(Provided: Shankar Kasynathan)

Mr Kasynathan said the process would give voice to those who have had similar experiences at the Sorrento Hotel and elsewhere.

“As a commissioner, I plan to use this experience as an opportunity to challenge the systematic racism taking place statewide in entertainment venues.”

He called on anyone who is racially discriminated against in entertainment venues in Victoria to contact him through the Victorian Multicultural Commission.

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