Jamaican workers at US resort sue over wages

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This undated file photo shows the Yellowstone Club near Big Sky, Montana. (Erik Petersen/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP)

Five Jamaicans who were recruited to work at a Montana ski resort for the ultra-rich just north of Yellowstone National Park say they and more than 100 other Jamaicans were discriminated against and paid less than other employees doing the same work.

They sued the club and a hospitality staffing agency last year and are scheduled to enter mediated settlement talks in Missoula on Wednesday, court records said.

The lawsuit alleges the Jamaicans did not receive tips or service charges that are included on restaurant and bar bills like other employees did while cooking for or serving wealthy club members, who include Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway founder Warren Buffett and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The club’s and the plaintiffs’ attorneys declined to comment prior to the mediation session.

While five people filed the lawsuit, they allege the discrimination was directed at 110 Jamaicans who received employment visas to work at the exclusive ski and golf club in the mountains near Big Sky during the winter of 2017-18.

The complaint argues the lost tips and service charges could amount to around $500 a night for workers at the nicest restaurants.

Jamaican cooks were paid $12 per hour while others were paid $15 to $18 an hour, the complaint alleges.

The complaint also alleges non-Jamaican workers were given preference to work special events where they could be paid more money.

Those who complained said they were told they would not receive tips and service charges because they “were not from here,” while a server who complained was told he could always be “taken back to Jamaica,” the lawsuit states.

Georgia-based Hospitality Staffing Solutions violated Montana law by taking deductions from Jamaican workers’ pay for purported damage to employer-provided housing and in one case, for an airplane ticket, the lawsuit alleges.

The Yellowstone Club acknowledged some of the deductions, but blamed Hospitality Staffing Solutions and did nothing to correct the underpayment, the lawsuit states.

An attorney for Hospitality Staffing Solutions did not respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday.

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