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Posted On: June 24, 2009 by

Vail Corporation Pays $80,000 To Settle Religious and Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

The Vail Corporation operators of ski resorts in Vail and Keystone, Colo., will pay $80,000 and furnish other relief to settle a religious and gender discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").

According to the lawsuit, EEOC v. The Vail Corporation, 07-cv-02035-REB-KLM, Lisa Marie Cornwell, an emergency services supervisor at the Keystone Resort, was subjected to harassment based on her Christian religion and her gender, denied religious accommodation and treated less favorably than her male colleagues. The EEOC said that Cornwell’s supervisor, Rick Garcia, forbade her and another Christian employee from even discussing their Christian beliefs with one another while at work, and would not allow them to listen to Christian music while on duty, because it might offend other employees, but had no similar restrictions on music with profanity or lyrics promoting violence against women, which were offensive to Cornwell.

EEOC Denver Field Director Nancy Sienko added, “Claims of religious discrimination have increased by more than 80 percent in the last ten years.

Additionally, according to the EEOC, Garcia ridiculed Cornwell for asking for scheduling accommodation so that she could attend her preferred religious services, and denied her requests while scheduling lower ranking officers for the shifts she requested. Also, Garcia created and tolerated a hostile work environment where he and other male employees made offensive sexual comments and jokes in the workplace and subjected Cornwell to sexual harassment, the EEOC alleged.

Cornwell complained to various Keystone managers and human resource staff about the harassment and being scheduled to miss her religious services on Sundays, but no action was taken to resolve the problems. EEOC alleged that Cornwell was fired in retaliation for her last complaint, made less than ten days before her termination.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires that employers provide reasonable accommodation for the religious practices and beliefs of employees. According to the EEOC, Cornwell could have been scheduled so that she could attend her religious services, without any cost or disruption to Vail’s business operations, and the company was required by law to make some such accommodation. Also, Title VII prohibits workplace harassment based on religion or gender.

Under the settlement, Vail will pay Cornwell $80,000 and provide training for all of its Keystone employees on religious accommodation and prohibited harassment and retaliation.

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