California Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Filed Against Resort in Napa Valley


Napa Valley, CA: A wrongful termination lawsuit brought against a California resort is turning into a case of "he said, she said" in the early stages: the plaintiff suggesting he was fired from his job, while a public relations firm representing the defendant maintains the plaintiff resigned from his job voluntarily after attempts to renegotiate his terms of employment proved unsuccessful.

According to the Napa Valley Register (01/31/18), the plaintiff in the wrongful termination lawsuit is identified as Daniel Philbin (Dan). The plaintiff was employed as the Director of Facilities for Carneros Resort and Spa, located in the Napa Valley. In his capacity as Director of Facilities the plaintiff made various attempts, according to his wrongful termination lawyer, to ensure his employer complied with standards required by the American with Disabilities Act, as well as accurate reporting of water usage and the procurement of proper permits as required.

The plaintiff says he was fired out of retaliation

Philbin holds that in response to his overtures, Carneros let him go as a form of retaliation.

But that's not what Carneros says, according to the Register report.

A PR firm advocating on behalf of Carneros released a statement, suggesting that "the water issues alluded to in Dan's complaint long pre-date the current ownership. In fact, it was the new owners who brought the issues to the County's attention when they acquired the property in 2014. Since then, ownership has worked diligently and cooperatively with the County to resolve them, and think they are very close to a solution."

In sum, Carneros holds that Philbin's California wrongful termination lawsuit is without merit and is being driven by a personal agenda maintained by the plaintiff.

The defendant's advocate also held that Carneros addressed all concerns with regard to ADA issues once they were brought to the employer's attention.

Philbin's lawsuit however, disagrees with that statement. As a result in a change of ownership in 2013 much of the property has been renovated. In 2014, according to the lawsuit, the resort refused to install ramps between the deck and patio spaces, and also failed to install lifts at hot tubs and pools that would otherwise allow guests with disabilities to use those facilities.

While Carneros secured the necessary permit for the drilling of a new well in 2015, associated permits for subsequent electrical and water connections were not obtained, or so it is alleged. The plaintiff maintained there were other examples of work for which proper permits were not arranged, in spite of the plaintiff's personal overtures in his role as Director of Facilities that Carneros was duly required to obtain them.

Philbin claims he installed a new, more accurate water meter for the facility in 2013, prior to the ownership change. Three years later, the plaintiff noted an error in documents pertaining to water consumption submitted to the requisite municipality.

The plaintiff maintains all of his overtures fell on deaf ears. The lawsuit maintains that Philbin soon found himself shut out from important meetings, and things soon became convoluted after that, according to the wrongful termination lawsuit.

The defendants say the plaintiff tendered his resignation

The plaintiff had previously suggested that he focus exclusively on the resort's water issues given the importance of that portfolio, and hand the remainder of his duties to a colleague. After that proposal was rejected by the owners, Philbin was informed some weeks later that an outside vendor was being hired to manage the resort's water issues, while the plaintiff was offered the opportunity to remain with Carneros for a flat rate paid monthly.

Following a terse meeting with his immediate supervisor, identified as the CEO of minority owner Flynn Properties, the plaintiff mulled things over for about a week before accepting the flat-rate offer from his employer. Instead, according to the lawsuit, Philbin received notice that his resignation had been accepted, even though he had not issued his resignation, or so it is alleged in the wrongful termination lawsuit.

Philbin is requesting a trial by jury and seeks damages, attorneys' fees and costs. The Register notes a case management conference is slated for early June.

The Carneros Resort and Spa was formerly known as the Carneros Inn. The facility is currently owned by GF Carneros Holdings, LLC, GEM Realty Capital, Inc. and Flynn Properties, Inc.

There was no specific case information available at press time. The California wrongful termination lawsuit was filed in Napa County Superior Court in December 2017.

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