Settlement reached in proceedings with ultra-rich Montana club

Billings, Montana. (AP) — Dozens of Jamaican citizens hired to work as cooks, servers, and housekeepers for the ultra-rich at a ski resort in Montana are being discriminated against and sued for less than other employees. Has reached a $ 1 million class action settlement. Same job.

According to court documents, a settlement between the Yellowstone Club and Atlanta-based staffing agency Hospitality Staffing Solutions will result in approximately 90 Jamaican workers receiving checks ranging from less than $ 1,000 to more than $ 14,000. Become.

Workers cook and serve club members, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway founder Warren Buffett, and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. He claimed that he did not receive the hints and service fees included in the restaurant and bar bills, as other employees sometimes did.

Neither the club nor the staffing agency acknowledged the settlement-based liability.

The settlement, approved by Judge Sam Haddon of the US District Court on April 22, was filed in a proceeding on behalf of workers in 2019. It covered their treatment at luxury ski and golf clubs in the mountains near the Big Sky in the winter of 2017-18.

Jamaicans claimed to have been hired to work in a club through fraudulent claims about tips and service charges they would receive, and were brought to Montana through a federal employment visa program.

According to the lawsuit, Jamaican workers were paid low wages, cooks were paid $ 12 an hour, and others were paid $ 15 to $ 18 an hour. Non-Jamaican workers prioritize working at special events where they can pay more, and Jamaicans are assigned to work such as cleaning flyers or as a server for cheap restaurants for children. Insisted.

According to the lawsuit, at the end of winter, Jamaican workers’ end-of-season bonuses were illegally deducted to cover their travel expenses and damage to their employees’ housing.

The complainants were told they would not receive a tip or service charge because they “did not come from here,” but the complaining server was always said to be “taken back to Jamaica.”

“It wasn’t a promise of American opportunities, but the winter (of Jamaican workers) in Montana was full of disappointment, illegal low wages, and discrimination,” the proceedings said.

According to the proceedings, the two defendants accused each other. The club claimed that hospitality staffing was responsible for salary, and hospitality staffing claimed that the decision was made by the club.

Under the settlement, the club will pay $ 515,000 and the hospitality staffing will pay $ 485,000, according to court documents.

Hans Williamson, general manager of the Yellowstone Club, said the resort has hired workers from Jamaica directly under a visa program since the proceedings, rather than through a staffing agency. He said in a statement that the majority of these workers returned home each year and the program was growing.

Williamson said the club “is proud of its strong partnership with Jamaica” to attract employees to the Yellowstone region by offering competitive wages, food and housing opportunities. I tried.

A worker’s lawyer, who receives a $ 250,000 fee and a cost of nearly $ 23,000, declined to comment beyond what is included in the settlement agreement. Some of the workers were represented by Towards Justice, a non-profit law firm based in Denver.

Hospitality stuffing and company lawyers did not immediately respond to phone messages asking for comment.

Plaintiffs filed a motion for discrimination against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in September 2018 and received a notice of the right to sue in July 2019. This was a few weeks after the Yellowstone Crab bar sold liquor without a license and agreed to pay Montana $ 370,000 to store the liquor. From a licensed facility.