FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 14, 2021
Vancouver, BC — A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled that a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of employees terminated during the pandemic may proceed against Pan Pacific Vancouver. A former concierge who was employed by the hotel for 24 years filed the lawsuit after he was terminated last August. The class action will represent all regular hourly employees of the Pan Pacific as of February 20, 2020 whose shifts were cancelled on or after that date.
The lawsuit alleges workers were wrongfully fired during the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiff, Romuel Escobar, claims the hotel misled workers, wrongfully terminated them without cause or notice, and skirted full severance pay owed to workers for their years of service. Early in the pandemic, hotel management detailed plans to drastically reduce its staff from 450 workers to 80 and to dismiss the rest. Rather than informing members about the impending dismissals, the company sent workers messages of false hope and suggested they intended to bring their long-term staff back.
Pan Pacific terminated staff in batches to avoid group termination provisions in the Employment Standards Act that required advance notice and would trigger larger payouts to workers, according to the lawsuit. Between firings, the hotel also offered workers $250 to sign a contract taking away their regular full-time status to become casual, on-call workers, effectively waiving their severance rights. The hotel fired workers anyway, regardless of whether they signed.
“The Court’s decision to allow the lawsuit to proceed as a class action sends a strong message to hotel employers: misleading your long-term workforce for months before mass firing them could lead to financial consequences. That’s why this development is a positive step forward for nearly 100 terminated workers at the Pan Pacific who deserve much better treatment from their employer during Covid,” said Zailda Chan, President of UNITE HERE Local 40.
Pan Pacific Vancouver workers organized to join UNITE HERE Local 40 last year. Many of the affected Pan Pacific workers are immigrants and women of colour who have served the hotel for 20 to 30 years. Of the total women fired from the hotel since June 2020, 94% were women of colour.
Pan Pacific Vancouver is a luxury hotel at Canada Place. It is owned by an affiliate of Westmont Hospitality Group. Westmont is one of the world’s largest privately held hospitality companies with over 400 hotels worldwide. Westmont received over $48 million from government funded COVID-19 relief programs across North America but failed to keep its workforce intact.
UNITE HERE Local 40 is a labour union representing workers in the hotel, food service and airport industries throughout British Columbia. Learn more at UniteHereLocal40.org.