News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Hannelore Sudermann, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Feb. 10, 2004 - MOSCOW, Idaho -- A Latah County woman is suing Hagadone Industries in Idaho Federal District Court claiming she lost her job because of a disability.
In the case, which started Monday morning, Judith Kastl, former executive housekeeper at Moscow's University Best Western Inn, is charging that the hotel pushed her out of her job after she received a head injury that brought her problems with concentrating and focusing. Hagadone Hospitality Co. is the parent company of Moscow's Best Western. It also owns the Coeur d'Alene Resort.
In her claim, Kastl is asking for $640,000 in pay and benefits as well as for punitive and compensatory damages.
Kastl suffered a head injury after falling from a horse in July of 2000.
She had been working at the University Best Western since 1992 when she was hired as a seamstress. She had received two promotions, landing the job of executive housekeeper in 1996.
After her injury, Kastl continued to work as the hotel's executive housekeeper, overseeing a staff of 30 to 35 people.
But her injury continued to cause her problems, said her attorney Cynthia Miller in her opening statement before a six-member jury Monday. When Kastl's supervisor believed her injury was permanent, he set out to get her to leave the job "by embarrassing her, humiliating her, belittling her, and intimidating her," said Miller. "She suffered to a point that she was compelled to quit."
According to the complaint, these were the same tactics Kastl was taught to use when the hotel management wanted to get rid of an unwanted employee. That way the hotel wouldn't be liable for unemployment benefits, said Kastl's claim.
When her supervisor arbitrarily changed her work hours so that she would start her day at 7 a.m. instead of 5 a.m., he cited necessary business reasons, said Miller. It wasn't necessary business, she said, it was "nothing but a pretext, a ruse," and Sayler knew it would upset Kastl's personal life.
Introducing Kastl's supervisor William Sayler to the jury, defense attorney James King said Sayler had hired Kastl, promoted her, and hadn't wanted her to leave.
"She did a good job," said King, "up to and including the time that she quit."
King described Kastl's head trauma as "having her bell rung," and the after-effects as "cobwebs." When Kastl asked for a quiet place to rest if she felt ill, Sayler made it happen, said King. When she wanted help doing the computational work necessary for her job, Sayler found it, the attorney said.
When it came to changing Kastl's work hours, "Bill's the boss," said King. "He had wanted to change Judy Kastl's schedule even before the accident."
By starting two hours later in the day, she would have more time with the workers she supervised, said King.
"She quit," said King, "for her own reasons -- whether it's because of her (medical) advisers or she wanted to spend more time with her horses. She quit."
Witnesses for the case include Kastl's doctor and psychologist. They testified Monday that they first feared she was suffering seizures as a result of her injury, but later determined she had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the fall. Both disabilities are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Also on the witness list are two other University Inn employees who will tell how they were forced out by the hotel's management in a similar fashion, said Miller.
Several current University Inn employees are on the Hagadone witness list. According to court documents filed by King, they're expected to testify about the efforts of the hotel to accommodate Kastl after her injury and about Kastl's negative and defensive attitude toward Sayler.
The case is scheduled to last through Friday.
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(c) 2004, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.