The Four Seasons Hotel Miami left workers in the dark about their employment status following massive furloughs last year, in an effort to shortchange them from their severance pay, according to a lawsuit.
Six hotel employees sued Four Seasons Miami Employment, seeking a class action for more than 50 staff members who are allegedly affected and who could join the case.
The 70-story tower at 1435 Brickell Avenue includes a 221-key hotel and condominium units on the upper floors, as well as office and conference space.
Four Seasons Miami Employment furloughed 312 employees in March 2020 by providing them with the required notice under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.
Since then, employees have not received updates or direction from the hotel about whether they will be brought back to work, according to the complaint. Under the WARN Act, a furlough longer than six months amounts to job loss, meaning the Four Seasons should have sent employees a second notice letting them know they were laid off, the suit says.
The hotel effectively left staff on a “perpetual furlough” as a way to wiggle out of its own policy for severance pay to employees let go without cause, the suit alleges.
Four Seasons Hotel Miami spokesperson Mikaela Caldera declined comment.
Attorney J. Freddy Perera, who filed the complaint, said it is unlikely the hotel will recall staff because it scrapped their positions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The idea is that if you put employees on furlough long enough, they would get desperate to resign to get a different job,” in which case they will not get severance, added Perera, founding partner of Perera Barnhart Aleman. “Would you wait 14 months to get your job back or would you start looking for other work?”
Employees Aletta Van Balderen, Dagoberto Turcios, Shirley Bowrin, Rosario Miranda Natalie Arias and Lus Rojas filed the suit. Perera declined to say whether they are working elsewhere.
Van Balderen worked as a Four Seasons front office manager, Turcios was in charge of payroll, Bowrin was a hotel ambassador, and Arias was a catering and conference coordinator, according to Perera. Miranda and Rojas worked at the mini bar.
Many of the affected staff are entitled to hefty severance pay as they worked there for decades, Perera said.
South Florida’s biggest hospitality employers furloughed and laid off workers en masse last year once governments imposed shutdowns. Jeffrey Soffer’s Fontainebleau Miami Beach resort laid off more than 1,300 employees; the Boca Raton Resort & Club, owned by billionaire Michael Dell’s MSD Partners, laid off 995 employees; and the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach furloughed 393 employees.