A look into the complaints behind the proposed class-action lawsuit against Vail Resorts
16 current and former employees have joined on to the pending lawsuit filed in Colorado
EAGLE — A total of 16 current and former Vail Resorts employees have joined a proposed class-action lawsuit alleging that the company violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as state labor laws in Colorado and eight other states. Here is what we know about their claims.
The lawsuit was first filed December 2020 in Colorado District Court on behalf of Randy Dean Quint, John Linn and Mark Molina, who are current or former employees at Beaver Creek Resort.
Quint, Linn and Molina each filed declarations detailing their experiences with the company along with a 167-page complaint filed by their attorneys. They are represented by California-based attorneys Edward P. Dietrich and Benjamin Galdston, who have declined to comment on the case.
The 167-page document filed a total of 22 complaints against Vail Resorts, including violations of state labor laws in a total of nine states where the company operates resorts: Colorado, California, Utah, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, New York, Vermont and Michigan.
The complaint includes allegations of the company failing to pay employees for all hours worked, as well as for overtime hours, meals, rest periods and training. It also alleges that the company does not properly reimburse employees for the equipment needed to perform the basic functions of their jobs, such as skiing/snowboarding gear and cellphone costs.
Quint has worked as a seasonal employee and, later, a full-time snow sport instructor for seven years at Beaver Creek Resort. He estimated that between December 2017 and December 2019, he should have been paid for an additional 470.17 hours, amounting to $8,363.30 in unpaid wages.
Linn — also a resident of Colorado who has worked as a part-time and full-time snow sports instructor at Beaver Creek — claims he worked 213 hours that he was not paid for from December 2017 through March 2020, as well as 130 hours of unpaid overtime, according to the lawsuit.
As instructors, Quint and Linn said they are expected to log 6.5 hours for a full-day private lesson in accordance with company policy, even though they often work 9- or 10-hour days.
The allotted 6.5 hours logged for each full-day lesson should be recorded from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and should account for the full-day lesson, as well as lunch, morning team meetings, parent conferences, class list completion, “Epic Mix Academy” and completion of time cards, according to company policy cited in declarations filed by Quint and Linn.
“It was impossible to complete all of these tasks during the product/lesson hours,” Quint and Linn wrote. For example, morning team meetings begin at 8:45 a.m., which falls outside of the hours employees are able to log.
The company’s guidelines stipulate that employees “self-report” time worked outside of those 6 1/2 hours for approval by their supervisor.
However, the lawsuit claims that policy is contradicted by other parts of the Ski and Snowboard Schools Resource & Guideline Manual that ask employees to get previous approval for additional hours whenever possible and only allows self-reporting under specific circumstances.
The manual states that employees “are expected to manage their day and work for the assigned lesson time,” unless a guest requests to extend their lesson, according to the declarations.
“Any instructor who manipulates this system … is subject to immediate discipline up to and including termination,” according to excerpts of the manual cited in the declarations.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys are seeking class-action status to prosecute the case on behalf of a larger group, or “class,” impacted by the allegations which, in this case, are current and former employees who worked for Vail Resorts over the past three years.
Vail Resorts issued a statement at the beginning of October saying that the company “dispute(s) the accuracy of the claims raised by the plaintiffs.”
“Vail Resorts is, and has always been, committed to treating its employees fairly and in compliance with all applicable laws,” Jamie Alvarez, the company’s director of corporate communications, said in a written statement issued on behalf of the company.
Vail Resorts is currently represented by Jonathan O. Harris and Raul Chacon Jr., of the firm of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart. Neither Vail Resorts nor its counsel have responded to the Vail Daily’s most recent requests for comment.
In the months since the December 2020 filing, 13 other current or former Vail Resorts employees have joined on to the lawsuit as “opt-in plaintiffs.” Each opt-in plaintiff signed off on a boiler plate statement certifying that they have similar complaints. Opting in also means that they will be entitled to any compensation negotiated if the case is ultimately settled.
The statement states that plaintiffs were not compensated for “‘off-the-clock’ work including, but not limited to, traveling between employee parking lots and (their) locker room or work site, the donning and doffing of uniforms and equipment or training time …”
It also alleges that plaintiffs were “not paid (their) regular rate of pay per hour set forth in (their) employment agreement for all hours worked in non-overtime weeks or at one and one-half times my regular rate of pay per hour for all hours worked over 40 hours in overtime weeks.”
It often takes resort workers — ski instructors, ticket sales employees, lift operators, etc. — a considerable amount of time to travel from resort parking lots up the mountain to their work sites. With the additional time it takes to put on and take off snow gear, not being paid for this time can add up quickly, the main complaint states.
Also among the 22 counts brought against Vail Resorts is a complaint known as “unjust enrichment,” alleging that the company has benefited financially from years of “willfully and systematically” failing to pay employees for all hours worked.
“In violation of federal and state laws, Vail Resorts has illegally reaped millions of dollars at the expense of plaintiffs and other class members,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit has yet to receive conditional certification for class or “collective action” status, and multiple requests for evidence are still pending with the Colorado District Court.
A federal judge assisting with the case recently granted a request filed by Vail Resorts to postpone the case while the company moves to settle two similar lawsuits filed against the resort operator in a California District Court.
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