CASPER, Wyo. — Three former employees of a Colorado-based business that owns a Casper hotel filed a federal lawsuit last week alleging they were harassed and discriminated against while working at the hotel.
The plaintiffs — Julie Carno, Shirley Davis and Kimberly Carson — worked at the Holiday Inn on Granite Peak Drive. The hotel is owned and operated by MARS Development, the company named as the defendant in the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming.
“We adamantly deny all the allegations,” James Worthen, the Casper-based attorney who represents MARS Development, said Monday.
Worthen noted that the Wyoming Department of Employment found the plaintiffs' allegations “utterly without merit.”
The suit, which asks for a jury trial, seeks an unspecified cash settlement.
Davis, who worked as director of sales, claims to have been subjected to both sexual and gender-based harassment at the hotel.
A former front desk manager at the Holiday Inn began stalking her around July 2008, she claims.
Davis says the manager would compliment her hair and perfume and she would respond by “walking away and making disapproving expressions,” the lawsuit states.
She also claims the man visited her hair salon and told her stylist that she referred him there — which Davis claims to have never done, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that, while Davis told the hotel's human resources and operations manager of the allegations, “it was not until (MARS Development) was contacted by the police that defendant reluctantly took remedial action.”
Carno and Davis claim in the lawsuit that a manager of the hotel, in management meetings, would refer to female employees in a derogatory manner.
He is also accused in the lawsuit of referring to Carno and Davis when he told another employee, “keep an eye on them and make sure they are not screwing up.”
Davis claims that, in late 2008, she was asked by Mike May, a co-owner of the hotel, about the hotel manager's behavior toward women.
Davis told May, the former Colorado House minority leader, that she thought the manager “was not properly trained in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discrimination and sex harassment,” according to the lawsuit.
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May, the lawsuit states, told Davis that, if any man spoke to his daughters the way Davis claimed she was talked to by the manager, he “wouldn't stand for it.”
“Nonetheless, Mike May frequently made sexual advances to the female employees and invited female employees to his hotel room,” according to the lawsuit.
May has been named in a separate federal lawsuit that alleges he propositioned a female employee who was later denied a promotion after turning him down.
In a statement last summer addressing those allegations, May said the Wyoming Department of Labor found the claims to be “completely frivolous.”
That lawsuit, which is before U.S. District Judge William F. Downes, is ongoing.
Carson alleges in the most recent lawsuit that he was fired from his job as building engineer at the hotel because of a disability. He claims to suffer from permanent nerve damage in his rib cage, according to court documents.
Carson says he was asked by the manager of the hotel to shovel snow in March 2009. When Carson told the manager that he was scheduled to undergo a nerve block procedure the following day, he claims the manager threatened to fire him if he didn't follow his order, according to the lawsuit.
Carson ultimately shoveled snow at the hotel and “sustained further injury to his nerves.” The following day, his doctor told him that he “should not return to work for a short period of time in order to avoid further injury,” the lawsuit states.
Carson claims he was fired from his job while at “home recuperating from an injury,” the lawsuit alleges.
The complaint was filed last Tuesday. MARS Development has not yet been formally served with the suit, Worthen said.
The matter has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson in Cheyenne.
Of the three plaintiffs, Davis is the only one who has received a “right to sue” notice from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the lawsuit filed by their attorneys.
Carno and Carson will seek to file an amended complaint when they receive “right to sue” notices, the complaint states.