Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Alexia Georgakopoulos

Second Advisor

Robin Cooper

Third Advisor

Dustin B. Berna


Conflict Resolution, Discrimination, Human Resources, Management


Employee abuse and discrimination appear rampant in many workplaces, as indicated by the annual Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports from 2014 and 2015. This study was designed to explore employment discrimination practices specifically within the hospitality industry. The researcher used conversational dialogue to capture the experiences of human resources (HR) professionals who may have observed employee discrimination in the hospitality industry. Using semi-structured interviews with the participants in the study, the researcher obtained rich descriptions of their lived world with respect to employee discrimination. The findings of the study, which indicate that there has been no discrimination in the Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach regions of Florida, are both perplexing and intriguing, as they provide an opportunity for critical examination of the conditional, and protectionist reasons why HR professionals defended the industry as non-discriminatory against employees who registered discrimination complaints. Since a wealth of literature evidences discrimination in the industry, the findings of this study prompted a discussion of the participants’ non-discrimination responses, which helped the researcher formulate a critical analysis leading to the construction of a theory of deniability as a conditioned mechanism of industry protectionism. This theory may appropriately contextualize the conflict among employees, HR professionals, and the hospitality industry at large, which appears to be nuanced by the Marxist template that the wealthy always view the working masses with fear. The results of this study demonstrate that seeking information about discriminatory practices from HR professionals in this industry may yield protectionism rather than recognition of the suffering experienced by discriminated employees.