Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

Ty Warner, owner of the Santa Barbara’s Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore, among many others, was hit with a class-action lawsuit claim filed on behalf of 425 hotels employees who until March 20, 2020, worked at Santa Barbara’s iconic Biltmore. As of that date, all hotel employees were placed on indefinite furlough due to COVID, even though hotel managers reportedly notified Warner that the hotel was safe to operate again on May 1, 2020. 

As furloughed employees — not working, but not laid off, either — their attorneys, Bruce Anticouni and Nicole Ricotta, argued that they have been effectively denied $6 million in compensation contractually due them as employees who were terminated through no fault of their own. The suit contends that Warner, who has contracted with the Four Seasons to manage the hotel, not the hotel chain, was responsible for steadfastly refusing to turn the lights back on. 

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The two lead plaintiffs named in the legal action had cumulatively put in 22 years working for the Biltmore. Had Warner followed the hotel’s “no-fault separation pay” clause of their contracts, the pleading alleges, they would have been eligible for $26,644 and $22,392, respectively. The 425 former hotel employees, according to a formal statement by Anticouni and Ricotta, have had to go without millions of dollars in wages and benefits: “A vast majority have not found comparable employment, resulting in evictions, foreclosure of mortgages, unpaid bills, the inability to purchase health insurance, and severe emotional damages.” One former employee, the attorneys alleged, committed suicide. 

Despite years of protests by former hotel workers and in private settlements talks with representatives of the hotel and Warner, no agreement has been reached. Neither Warner nor the Four Seasons corporation has responded to requests for comments by the Independent by deadline.

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