Plaintiffs in Vail Resorts federal labor lawsuit continue efforts to block California settlement
Attorneys ask for an emergency injunction, file 2nd motion to intervene in the California settlement deal that they say will hurt their case
EAGLE — Plaintiffs in the proposed class action lawsuit filed against Vail Resorts have asked a judge to put an emergency stop to settlement proceedings in three similar lawsuits filed in California due to the impact they say it would have on their case.
This marks the latest development in the ongoing case, which alleges that Vail Resorts has been violating federal labor laws in failing to pay reimbursements for equipment as well as compensation for time staff members spend training, getting on the mountain and gearing up before shifts.
The proposed class action lawsuit was filed in Colorado District Court in December 2020 on behalf of Randy Dean Quint, John Linn and Mark Molina, who are current or former employees at Beaver Creek Resort.
The case alleges that Vail Resorts violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act as well as state labor laws in Colorado and eight other states. 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 is, and has always been, committed to treating its employees fairly and in compliance with all applicable laws,” Jamie Alvarez, director of corporate communications for Vail Resorts, wrote in a statement on behalf of the company.
The lawsuit has been chugging along, with 13 other plaintiffs from various states joining the case, according to documents filed in Colorado District Court. The plaintiffs’ allegations include improper compensation for time worked and improper reimbursement for work-related expenses as well as “breach of contract and unjust enrichment.”
Things heated up over the summer when Vail Resorts notified the court that it was preparing to settle three similar lawsuits filed in California and then subsequently requested that the lawsuit filed in Colorado be postponed for 90 days as the settlements proceed.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case filed in Colorado pushed back, saying Vail Resorts failed to notify them of the related cases in a timely manner as required by the Civil Rules for the District of Colorado. If the California cases are settled, the company could then argue that the agreement should settle the Colorado, as well, which the attorneys said is a blatant attempt to get off easy.
Ultimately, Magistrate Judge Gordon P. Gallagher granted Vail Resorts’ motion to stay its case, a ruling to which the plaintiffs filed a spirited objection last month. Neither of the two judges working on the case had ruled on the objection as of Friday, Nov. 26.
Edward Dietrich, attorney for the plaintiffs in the Colorado case, has declined to comment on the case’s progression. Dietrich and Benjamin Galdston are representing the plaintiffs, which now total 16.
Vail Resorts is currently represented by Jonathan O. Harris and Raul Chacon Jr. of the firm of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart. Vail Resorts and its counsel have declined to comment on the latest developments in the cases, as well.
An emergency motion
Now, Dietrich and Galdston have filed an “emergency motion” asking Gallagher to stop the California settlement proceedings through a special power afforded to him under the federal All Writs Act. The act gives federal judges the authority to “issue all writs (formal written orders) necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”
The California settlement “was formulated, negotiated and structured in a manner intended to divest this court of its jurisdiction over the important federal Fair Labor Standards Act collective and class claims at issue here,” the attorneys stated in the motion.
The totality of the situation merits an emergency injunction based on three factors, they said.
First, their lawsuit was the first of the four cases to be filed in a federal district court, and it was filed in the district where Vail Resorts has headquarters. This, they say, makes it the most appropriate jurisdiction in which to settle the matter.
Next, legal precedent shows that it is relevant to consider any misconduct or “circumvented rules” when ruling on a request for an emergency injunction, they wrote.
They allege that Vail Resorts acted improperly by waiting to file the notice of related cases until the California cases were on the brink of being settled.
They also allege that the company’s lawyers got the judge to sign off on postponing the Colorado case “under false pretenses” when they told him that the settlement would be “subject to a ‘rigorous approval process’ in federal court,” according to the motion. This is no longer true, given that Vail Resorts recently received permission from a California district court judge to move settlement proceedings into state court, Galdston and Dietrich wrote.
Finally, “the (All Writs Act) authorizes courts to prevent parties from ‘pursuing an inadequate or collusive settlement in state courts which would release the apparently stronger claims in the instant (Colorado) case,” they wrote in the motion.
“There is no ‘emergency’ here,” attorneys for Vail Resorts shot back in an objection to Dietrich and Galdston’s motion.
“And there certainly is no emergency that warrants the extraordinary relief plaintiffs seek. Plaintiffs merely attempt to resuscitate arguments that the court already rejected when plaintiffs opposed a stay in this case,” Vail attorneys wrote in the objection, which was filed last week.
The motions to intervene
Dietrich and Galdston also filed a motion to intervene in one of the California-based cases on the grounds that a settlement would “impair or impede” their ability to protect the interests of their clients, according to the document filed in the U.S. District Court of Eastern California on Nov. 2.
If the judge grants their motion, they would be allowed to participate in a hearing in that case to make their arguments on why they should be allowed to join.
If Dietrich and Galdston are allowed to join the California case, they have announced their intentions to immediately file a motion to dismiss it so that the Colorado case can move forward instead. The California plaintiffs could then sign on to be a part of the Colorado case and benefit from any future settlements reached in that case.
However, the motion was rendered useless, as Vail Resorts made the motion to move settlement proceedings out of the district court, joining the three California cases to be settled under one case that was filed in a state court in El Dorado County, California. The motion was granted by a district court judge just a few days after Dietrich and Galdston filed their motion to intervene.
Dietrich and Galdston filed a motion to intervene in that case, too, submitting the document late last week. The El Dorado County judge presiding over the case has yet to rule on the motion.
Whether it be in district court or state court, Dietrich and Galdston say they have a “significant protectable interest” that would be “impaired” if the settlements go forward and that their clients’ interests are not “adequately represented” by the parties involved in the California cases, according to the latest motion to intervene filed in state court.
They are not adequately represented by the California plaintiffs because the Colorado case is stronger and contains broader claims that would call for a more impactful settlement, Dietrich and Galdston wrote in legal documents filed this fall.
Their significant interest is obtaining justice, which in the eyes of their clients means back pay for all the time and expenses they allegedly were not compensated for as well as changes to the company’s compensation policies, plaintiffs said in declarations filed with their attorneys’ opposition to postponing their case.
“The time has come for Vail Resorts to pay back its hourly employees, and to change its future labor and pay practices so that they will be in compliance with all applicable laws,” Quint, one of the three initial plaintiffs, wrote in his declaration.
“Vail Resorts disputes the merits of the existing litigation,” Alvarez wrote in her statement on behalf of the company. “We value the contributions of every employee and do our very best to bring the employee experience to life through competitive wages, comprehensive benefits and commitment to leadership development.”
This story is from VailDaily.com.
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