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Terranea Resort Agrees to Pay Over $2 Million to Settle Workers’ Wage Lawsuit

Rancho Palos Verdes, CA – According to court documents filed today, Terranea Resort has reached a settlement to pay out $2.15 million to resolve a major wage and hour class-action lawsuit brought by its employees. This is the second class action lawsuit the Lowe Enterprises-owned hotel has settled, the last one in 2013 for $1.125 million.

Hundreds of current and former employees will be eligible to receive compensation as a result of the lawsuit.  The complaint alleged various forms of wage theft, including off-the-clock work, missed rest breaks and meal periods, and failure to reimburse employees for basic tools needed for the job.  The lawsuit also alleged that the luxury resort utilized falsified record-keeping to avoid paying out meal break penalties.

Among the lawsuit’s claims, the plaintiffs alleged that the resort failed to pay them for time being shuttled on company buses to the luxury resort from off-site parking locations, something which workers say can add an hour or more to their daily travel.  Workers were also allegedly required to appear at work prior to their shifts in order to change into their uniforms, but were not compensated for this time.

Additionally, the lawsuit covers expenses for basic kitchen items for which the luxury resort allegedly failed to reimburse its cooks. Cooks at the high-end resort have reported that they bought their own knives, graters, and other tools because the employer did not provide such necessary tools to them.

Describing the practices alleged in the lawsuit, former cook Freddy Lovato stated, “I know the law says that we are supposed to be able to take two ten-minute rest breaks when we work an eight-hour shift.”  But he said that was “not the reality.”

Lovato himself was terminated by the company in August 2018, after having spoken widely to the press concerning working conditions at the luxury resort. In December 2018, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a legal complaint alleging that the company’s firing of Lovato was illegal and was motivated, in part, by his statements to the press.  The case is presently pending before an administrative law judge of the NLRB and there has been no resolution to date.

The wage and hour lawsuit and the outstanding Labor Board case follow a sexual harassment lawsuit filed in 2017 by Time Magazine Silence Breaker Sandra Pezqueda.  Pezqueda, who worked as a dishwasher at the Terranea through a staffing agency, alleged that she was sexually harassed and assaulted by an agency supervisor and was fired after she reported the harassment.  In May 2018, Pezqueda announced that she had reached a settlement under which the staffing agency agreed to pay her $250,000 to resolve all claims raised in the lawsuit.

Following Pezqueda’s lawsuit, multiple women have come forward alleging sexual harassment and other inappropriate conduct at the Terranea. California NOW, Civil Rights Leader Dolores Huerta, and the Feminist Majority Foundation called for a boycott of the hotel in October 2018 after hearing about the working conditions at the Terranea Resort.

UNITE HERE Local 11 is a labor union representing over 31,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona that work in hotels, restaurants, universities, convention centers and airports.