A mere blanket restriction prohibiting harassment or discrimination of any kind is not enough! Company policy must contain an effective and fair system for an aggrieved employee to seek resolve. Met with hostility, this case illustrates an appalling expression of power and disregard for lower level hotel employees. Although, in this case, the victims prevailed, it is a lingering reminder of the abusive and unsafe practices hotel housekeepers suffer day to day. Vail Daily, Randy Wyrick, reports the facts.
The owners and managers of Vail Run agreed to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit with a $1.02 million payment to split among the eight former employees who brought the suit.
VAIL — The owners and managers of a Vail hotel agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle a sexual harassment case.
Vail Run’s $1 million settlement will be split between eight employees, the result of lawsuit filed on their behalf by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. At least two of those eight employees were in the country illegally.
The federal lawsuit named Vail Run Community Resort Association, Inc., its management company, Global Hospitality Resorts, Global Hospitality’s controller, Alan McLean, and owner, William Fleischer.
The two sides reached their settlement late Thursday.
The civil case follows a criminal action in which Vail’s Run’s housekeeping manager, Omar Quezada, was convicted of sexually harassing two women on his staff. They accused him of demanding sex from them and threatening to turn them in to Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they refused.
A jury convicted him of criminal extortion and unlawful sexual contact.
During the criminal trial, testimony revealed that there was no video footage from Vail Run’s security system, and there were no other witnesses. Quezada’s two primary accusers didn’t come forward for more than a year after they say the harassment began.
When they did, they were met with hostility by Vail Run’s management, the commission’s lawsuit said. Both women were later fired.
Eventually, they went to the Vail police, who investigated and charged Quezada.
A jury convicted Quezada in 2013. The commission filed its federal lawsuit later that year on behalf of eight employees in Vail Run’s housekeeping department.
The commission enforces anti-discrimination laws on behalf of all who live in this country and work for an employer covered by the law, said Equal Employment Opportunity Commission General Counsel P. David Lopez. That includes those living and working in the shadows who are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, he said.
The commission has also settled other cases dealing with national origin discrimination, including Mountain King, Suffolk Laundry and MorenoFarms.
“It is increasingly important to protect these socially marginalized communities against discrimination, extortion and exploitation,” said Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill.
ILLEGAL IS IRRELEVANT
Iris Halpern, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission attorney who handled the case, said the agency is required to get involved, and the plaintiffs’ immigration status doesn’t matter.
“It makes no difference to the EEOC if they’re in the country illegally,” Halpern said when the commission’s filed the lawsuit. “When someone brings a civil case, in this case a sexual harassment case, it is a requirement that you file a charge with the Colorado Civil Rights Division and the EEOC.”
The women did not have attorneys at the time. Catholic Charities helped them file the civil case.
According to the commission’s complaint, Fleischer stormed into Megan Bonta’s office, a Catholic Charities representative who helped the women file their civil suit.
“Fleischer threatened to have Catholic Charities’ funding cut if Bonta did not stop helping with the case,” the lawsuit said.
In addition to paying $1.02 million, Vail Run and Global Hospitality agreed to expunge the discrimination cases from the former employees’ personnel files, as well as all negative job performance reviews, and to convert any terminations to resignations and give them positive job references.
Vail Run and Global Hospitality will also write letters of regret to the former workers, put new policies in place about sexual harassment and discrimination and agreed not to rehire Quezada. The companies will pay an outside firm to monitor them for the next five years.