Former Beaver Creek Resort manager details pay discrimination at Vail Resorts to state Senate committee |

Former Beaver Creek Resort manager details pay discrimination at Vail Resorts to state Senate committee

Michelle Siemer testifies in support of bill which would expand on Colorado's Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

John LaConte
Vail Daily
Michelle Siemer, a former Beaver Creek manager, testified before the Colorado Senate's Business, Labor and Technology committee on Tuesday, saying she and other women faced gender-based pay discrimination while working for Vail Resorts.
Vail Daily archive

Michelle Siemer, a former operations manager at Beaver Creek Resort, testified Tuesday before the Colorado Senate’s Business, Labor and Technology committee in Denver, saying she and other women faced gender-based pay discrimination while working for Vail Resorts.

Siemer worked for Vail Resorts from September 2000 to June 2022, working her way up to the operations manager position at Beaver Creek Resort. In a discrimination charge filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Siemer said while working for Beaver Creek, she discovered that at least one of the male employees who reported to her earned more than her despite having less tenure, a lower title and position, less experience, fewer certifications, and fewer responsibilities. Siemer’s charge also says she reported the disparate pay to both a regional director and director at Vail Resorts who told her there was nothing they could do to remedy the disparity.

Siemer’s testimony on Tuesday was in an effort to support Senate Bill 23-105 (currently working its way through the legislature) which would expand on Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act of 2019. The 2019 bill allows a person aggrieved by a discrimination violation to obtain relief for back pay going back three years, and SB23-105 would increase that to six years, something Siemer said would benefit her and others.

“Standing up to a multimillion-dollar corporation with endless resources can seem an impossible task; making sure the Department of Labor and Employment has the authority and resources to investigate and resolve cases like mine would help women like me — who are treated and paid unfairly — come forward and get at least some of the back pay we deserve,” Siemer said on Tuesday. “Increasing the back pay period up to six years would make a huge difference for my family.”

One of the bill’s primary sponsors, Sen. Jessie Danielson, a Democrat, said the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act of 2019 made it “no longer legal to discriminate against a woman for being a woman, for performing the same exact work as men” and established a process for women to pursue a claim in court.

But Danielson said unless the legislature strengthens the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, “women will be underpaid, when compared to men, for the exact same work.”

Siemer, in her Tuesday testimony, said that has been the case with her at Vail Resorts in the years following the passage of the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act of 2019.

“My position should have been fixed years ago,” she said.

Vail Resorts uses a grade structure to determine salaries; Siemer on Tuesday said men with similar responsibilities were graded as senior managers, while the highest grade she was able to reach was manager.

“I kept taking more responsibility in the hopes that I would be promoted and paid more, instead I was told that my pay would not increase, because I was at the highest end of the range for my grade,” Siemer said. “Requests for my grade to be adjusted to reflect the full scope of my responsibilities, and in alignment with men in similar roles, were ignored by my supervisor and HR. Even men I supervised were paid more than me. I stayed as long as I did because I wanted to provide for my family. I ultimately left last year because it was clear that they were not going to pay me fairly. Many other women have also been underpaid by my former employer, and are afraid of rocking the boat.”

Siemer returned to the “rocking the boat” expression often in her speech, using it as a metaphor for her situation.

“Women with children don’t rock the boat because we are afraid our kids will fall out,” she said. “As a girl and the child of immigrants, I was taught to work hard and not rock the boat. As a woman who finally rocked the boat and found the courage to jump in, I’m swimming to shore and asking you to send a lifeboat back in the form of supporting Senate Bill 23-105.”

The Colorado Senate’s Business, Labor and Technology committee is expected to hear more testimony on Senate Bill 23-105 in the coming weeks.

The Vail Daily reached out to Vail Resorts for comment on Siemer’s testimony and didn’t receive a response.

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