U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Management Company Also Sued; Vulnerable Workers Subjected to Abuse, Including Attempted Rape, and Retaliation for Complaining, EEOC Charged
DENVER - Vail Run Resort Community Association, Inc., a condominium complex in Vail, Colo., and its management company, Global Hospitality Resorts, Inc., violated federal law by allowing a housekeeping manager to sexually harass Mexican female employees, including attempted rape, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
EEOC further alleged the defendants retaliated against men and women who complained about the harassment to management, including Global Hospitality's controller, Alan McLean, or owner, William Fleischer.
According to EEOC's suit, Omar Quezada, the housekeeping manager, repeatedly spoke about sex, propositioned female employees, showed them graphic pictures on his phone, and groped and physically assaulted his victims, including attempted rape. Quezada 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.
When workers nevertheless complained to management, they were met with anger and indifference. EEOC said the companies never undertook an internal investigation after the complaints, made no effort to reduce Quezada's supervisorial powers, and did not discipline Quezada. Two victims were finally forced to go to the police for help, and both of these women were later fired. In 2013, an Eagle County jury found Quezada was guilty of unlawful sexual contact and felony extortion, and Quezada pled guilty to additional similar charges after the jury verdict.
All this alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, discrimination based on national origin, and retaliation. EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. Vail Run Resort Community Association, Inc. and Global Hospitality Resorts, Inc. Case No. 1:15-cv-01592 (D. Colorado)) after first attempting to resolve the matter through its pre-litigation conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary damages including emotional distress and punitive damages. EEOC also seeks injunctive relief prohibiting any future discrimination by the employers and mandating corrective action.
The investigations of the charges of discrimination that led to the lawsuit were conducted by the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD). Rufina A. Hernandez, Director of the CCRD, stated, "We are pleased that the critical investigative work that the Colorado Civil Rights Division conducted produced such important results for the State of Colorado and the nation. The partnership between EEOC and CCRD not only provides protection to all workers - regardless of national origin - but ensures that systemic issues of sexual harassment of immigrant workers will be aggressively enforced."
"Immigrant workers are particularly vulnerable," said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "They have less information about their rights and about how to enforce them, and are often times linguistically and socially marginalized. Employers need to take preventative measures against discrimination, particularly when their workforce is highly susceptible to exploitation."
EEOC Denver Field Office Director John Lowrie added, "Companies must take sexual harassment complaints seriously, no matter who makes the complaint, and must be vigilant against retaliation."
Eliminating discriminatory policies affecting vulnerable workers is one of six national priorities identified in the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.