Vail Resorts Seeks To Settle Inappropriate Compensation Lawsuit While Seeking A Stay Of Another Legal Action

A new maze is designed to help people distance themselves socially during the Vail Open House in November 2020.
Chris Dillmann / Vail Daily Archive

Vail Resorts has filed a motion to postpone a lawsuit filed by current and former employees alleging improper compensation as it pushes to settle two similar cases in California.

The lawsuit was first filed in December 2020 in Colorado District Court on behalf of Randy Dean Quint, John Linn and Mark Molina, who are current or former employees of Beaver Creek Resort.

The case, called Quint et al., Alleges that Vail Resorts violated federal fair labor standards law as well as the labor laws of the states of Colorado and eight other states. Lawyers for the plaintiffs are seeking class action status to pursue the case on behalf of a larger group or “class” affected by the allegations, who in this case are current and former employees who worked for Vail Resorts for the past three years.

Since the December filing, the three original plaintiffs named have been joined by 13 other plaintiffs from various states who have chosen to join the class action, according to court documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The complainants’ allegations include inappropriate compensation for time worked and inappropriate reimbursement of work-related expenses as well as “breach of contract and unjust enrichment”.

In a first-person statement filed with the court, Quint estimated that between December 2017 and December 2019, he should have been paid for 470.17 hours of overtime, amounting to $ 8,363.30 in unpaid wages.

Edward Dietrich, lawyer for the plaintiffs, declined to comment on the status of the case. Dietrich now represents the 16 plaintiffs in the Vail Resorts case with Benjamin Galdston. Both are lawyers based in California.

Vail Resorts is represented by Jonathan O. Harris and Michelle B. Muhleisen.

“Vail Resorts is and has always been committed to treating its employees fairly and in accordance with all applicable laws,” Jamie Alvarez, director of corporate communications for the company, wrote on Tuesday.

Other cases appear

What Quint, his fellow plaintiffs, and their attorneys did not know until recently is that similar lawsuits have been filed against Vail Resorts in California.

The two California cases were filed by Anna Gibson and Adam Heggen, both former employees of Vail Resorts.

Heggen filed a “putative class action lawsuit” – meaning class action status is offered but has not yet been granted by a judge – against Heavenly Mountain Resort in California State Court in October 2020 , according to court documents. The lawsuit alleges Heggen was not paid for breaks and meals while working as a security guard for the complex.

The origins of the Gibson case date back to November 2019, but a lawsuit was not filed in a California district court until April 2021, according to court documents.

Generally, defendants involved in potential class actions are required to file a “notice of related matter” to inform plaintiffs that other similar complaints have been filed, Dietrich and Galdston wrote in response to the recent petition. Vail Resorts to postpone their case. .

Vail Resorts did not file a notice alerting Dietrich and Galdston of the California cases until August 12.

At this point, the company had already made a settlement offer to the plaintiffs in both cases. The notice was filed at the same time as Quint et al. trial for 90 days while settlement proceedings in California take place.

In the petition, Vail Resorts argued that the settlement of the two California lawsuits should “resolve and release all outstanding claims against Vail Resorts.” This rule would apply to Quint et al. case, too.

“We dispute the accuracy of the claims raised by the plaintiffs, however, to avoid the time-consuming and costly nature of new litigation, the parties involved have negotiated an interim settlement and will seek court approval to finalize and ensure that the outcome is fair. resolution to all, “Alvarez said in his statement on behalf of Vail Resorts.

Counsel for the plaintiffs in Quint et al. The case said Vail Resorts ‘failure to notify the court of related matters before extending a settlement offer “constitutes fault in litigation,” according to their response to Vail Resorts’ request for an extension in the case. .

According to Colorado District Civil Rules, parties must file a notice of related matters “at the time of their first appearance or filing of their first pleading or document, or any other matter addressed to the court”.

Had they been informed earlier, Dietrich and Galdston could have consolidated the cases into one national class or class action lawsuit and started a redress or settlement process on behalf of the whole group, they said in their opposition. in August from Vail Resorts. movements.

Instead, Vail Resorts did not file the notice until after they had fully started the process of settling the two “weaker claims”, knowing that Dietrich and Galdston would have negotiated a more costly settlement, the two argued. lawyers.

The ruling “laid bare Vail’s true purpose of extricating itself from liability without providing the compensation to which its current and former employees are entitled or without producing evidence that would reveal the true scope of its labor law violations.” , they wrote in their response to Vail Resorts’ Motions.

Alvarez declined to answer a question about why Vail Resorts and its lawyers haven’t filed a related case notice for so long.

In a written statement, a representative for Vail Resorts declined to disclose the exact settlement offer proposed in the two California cases, but said the company considered it “appropriate and fair.”

“In addition, it is submitted to a judge who will be asked to ensure that it is fair and reasonable for all concerned,” wrote Alvarez.

Vail Resorts has filed a motion to postpone a lawsuit filed by current and former employees alleging improper compensation as it pushes to settle two similar cases in California.
John LaConte / Vail Daily

The deadline is looming

A California District Court judge has given Vail Resorts until Oct. 15 to file all relevant documents related to the settlement offer, at which point a hearing will be held to determine whether the judge wishes to grant preliminary approval of the settlement agreement.

Lawyers for Vail Resorts said it didn’t make sense to continue arguing the Quint et al. the matter until they can see what happens to the settlement process.

“In the absence of a stay, the parties and this court will spend a great deal of time arguing thorny and complex issues only to become moot if the California court finds that the settlement reached in the Heggen / Gibson actions is fair, reasonable.” and adequate for all members of the group, ”Vail Resorts lawyers wrote in their motion to stay the lawsuit.

Dietrich and Galdston objected to the decision to uphold their case, saying Vail Resorts should not be rewarded for what they see as bad behavior. Beyond that, they stated that the claims made in Quint et al. cases are broader than those made in California cases and, therefore, would not be resolved by settlement in these cases.

The two California cases are seeking class action status to sue on behalf of a much smaller California-based group. Quint et al. The case, on the other hand, seeks class action status under federal Fair Labor Standards law and would allow current and former employees of Vail Resorts in various states to enroll and receive compensation. .

Vail Resorts’ motion to stay the case during the settlement process also prevents Dietrich and Galdston from sending a notice to current and former employees eligible to join the case, as they are currently waiting for Judge Gordon P. Gallagher. decides on their request to do so. so.

Seek institutional change, not just checks

While the exact nature of the California settlement was not disclosed, Dietrich and Galdston said a purely monetary settlement was not sufficient to achieve justice in the case. If they were successful, they would also seek an “injunction,” a legal step that could force Vail Resorts to change its compensation policies.

A handful of complainants involved in the Quint et al. lawsuit filed statements opposing Vail Resorts’ motion to stay their case. The plaintiffs said they wanted to be reimbursed for wages owed to them, but they also wanted policy changes that would benefit current and future employees.

They want institutional change, not just checks.

“The size of Vail Resorts, combined with its deep pockets, make many view Vail Resorts a ‘Goliath’ who will dominate any attempt to hold Vail accountable for his violation of state and federal labor laws,” Quint wrote in his statement. . “I’m not afraid of ‘Goliath’ although I’m just a ‘David’.

“I regard this Court as the ‘stone’ I threw to bring down this ‘Goliath’ who abused his employees for years through unfair labor and compensation practices,” continued Quint. “Now is the time for Vail Resorts to reimburse hourly employees and change future labor and compensation practices to comply with all applicable laws. If this stay is allowed and the settlement approved, Vail is unlikely to change labor and pay. I respectfully submit that it is the responsibility of this Court to ensure that Vail is held accountable and compelled to change its illegal practices.

When asked if Vail Resorts might consider changing its compensation policies on its own, Alvarez said the company “will continue to assess changes to its policies and practices based on various factors.”

“However, Vail Resorts disputes the merits of the ongoing litigation,” he said in the statement.

“We value the contributions of every employee and do our best to bring the employee experience to life through competitive salaries, comprehensive benefits and a commitment to leadership development,” said Alvarez.

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