The Real Deal Miami

Former Swire exec, employee fired for “Hispanic emotionalism,” lawsuit claims

Two lawsuits charge the firm tried to "purge" Hispanic employees and personality from the company
By Keith Larsen | September 05, 2018 11:30AM

Brickell City Centre with Kieran Bowers (Credit: Brickell City Centre)

Swire Properties faces two lawsuits from a former executive and an employee who allege that the company fired them for their “Hispanic emotionalism.”

The two lawsuits recently filed in a Miami-Dade Circuit Court allege that Swire’s new management team tried to “purge” its Miami office of its Hispanic employees and personality. One of the complaints further alleges that Swire’s head of U.S. operations Kieran Bowers began “squeezing out loud, Hispanic employees who would not curb these ethnic mannerisms,” according to the complaint.

Swire Properties is based in Miami and its parent company is Hong Kong-based. It most recently developed Brickell City Centre, a $1 billion mixed-use project that includes two 390-unit condo towers, a 500,000-square-foot outdoor shopping center, an office building and a 40-story hotel, East, Miami.

In a statement, Swire Properties said it does not comment on the details of pending litigation. “We look forward to presenting our defenses to these claims in court, and we believe we will be vindicated.”

According to the two complaints, the issues began when Stephen Owens, the longtime president of Swire Properties, retired and was replaced by Bowers in 2017.

Erika Tejeda, who says she was a former assistant human resources manager, alleges in her suit that Bowers hand-picked his vice president of human resources Catterina Calderon to make way for this purging of Hispanic employees. Tejeda alleges Calderon made disparaging remarks about Tejeda’s appearance, including telling her to wear her ponytail to meetings and “not try to look sexy,” and to wear “more dresses and sweaters.” She alleges no non-Hispanic employees were subjected to the same treatment.

Tejeda further alleges she was fired 12 hours after she asked for Family and Medical Leave to tend to her ill mother. She claims that she has been unable to find work since then and is alleging violation of Family and Medical Leave Act and violation of the Florida Civil Rights Act.

Efren Ales, who said he was an executive at Swire responsible for the management and oversight of all elements of Brickell City Centre, alleges in his suit that Bowers began terminating long-standing Hispanic employees on highly questionable ground and insisting on a quiet office atmosphere and a strict dress code.

Ales further alleges that Bowers told Ales that Hispanic emotionalism and passion would not be tolerated in Swire’s new office culture. One day later, in November 2017, he was fired, and Bowers cited “trust issues,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit alleges that the Hispanic purge has had an effect on workforce morale and Swire had to hire a consultant to assess the situation. Ales said he has been unable to work since and is alleging violation of Florida’s Civil Rights Act.