Vail Condo Pays $1 Million For Sexual Harassment Of Vulnerable Workers

The EEOC just announced an enormous settlement of $1,020,000 with a Vail, Colo. condo complex and its management company in a case of sexual harassment.

Courchevel, Mountain, Snow, Winter, Ski

Remember the “vulnerable workers” who are the easy targets for employment discrimination and harassment?  And who are one of the EEOC’s priorities under its Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP)?

Recall the infamous Henry’s Turkey’s case, and the other cases involving immigrants and others who toil in farm areas and other remote places and are easy to exploit.

I noted before that vulnerable workers were not just found in rural areas, or doing farm labor. Think of the Hampton’s case – the case involving immigrant laundry workers exploited by the denizens of NYC’s billionaire gold coast.

What were the allegations in the Vail case? It seems that a housekeeping manager:

“repeatedly spoke about sex, propositioned female employees, showed them graphic sexual pictures on his phone and groped and physically assaulted his victims, including attempted rape. [He] targeted Mexican immigrants who were particularly vulnerable, threatening them with job loss and deportation if they refused his advances, complained about him, or went to the police.”

This was the sexual harassment aspect of the case. Then there was the retaliation:

“When workers nevertheless complained to management, they were met with anger and indif­ference … the general manager, and the companies never undertook an internal investiga­tion after the complaints, made no effort to reduce [the manager’s] supervisorial powers, and refused to discipline him.”

As an EEOC attorney said: “It is increasingly important to protect these socially marginalized communities against discrimination, extortion and exploitation.”

So.  It happens in farm country and it happens in jet-setting vacation communities.

Why do employers permit these acts?

The commons thread is the vulnerability of these workers: where they are powerless, have low-status jobs, fear the immigration laws, perhaps cannot speak English; are physically isolated in the job; or may be mentally or developmentally challenged.

As the EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez said, “This is the latest in a series of enforcement efforts … This includes those living and working in the shadows who are particularly vulnerable to discrimination.”

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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]