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Hastings Staff May Get Back Pay

Proposal Makes Up For Sudden Job Loss

October 5, 2005
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer

Almost two years after the Hastings Hotel abruptly closed and fired more than 110 workers without notice, those same workers could soon get their due.

The owners and operators of the former hotel have agreed to pay $410,000 in a proposed settlement mediated by a federal magistrate in Bridgeport federal court. Of that money, $285,000 would go to the employees, $115,000 would go to their attorneys and $10,000 would go to the city of Hartford, which was a party to the suit.

"This settlement is quite good in light of the [legal] obstacles," said Thomas G. Moukawsher, attorney for the employees. "These people have waited long enough."

The hotel - operated by Dolce/International Hartford Inc. and owned by Olympus Real Estate Corp. - closed Dec. 30, 2003. According to documents filed in federal court, federal law prohibits layoffs of more than 100 employees until the end of a 60-day notice period; Moukawsher argued that the employees were entitled to back pay.

The hotel's owner and operator disputed that claim in the proposed settlement, arguing that the workers did not work for an employer that met the federal law's definition, and that advance notice was not necessary.

Because of the settlement, though, most of the legal issues were left unresolved, Moukawsher said.

"If mediation had failed, we would have then had to fight this out on the law, and that could have taken quite a bit of time," he said, adding that the money provided to the employees is roughly 60 percent of the total that he believes they were due.

Attorneys for the hotel's owner and operator declined to comment Tuesday.

"It's a pretty big victory because it's the first time the city's ever pursued a case against an employer for treating workers in this way," said Matt Hennessy, chief of staff to Mayor Eddie A. Perez. "Employers, no matter their circumstances, have an obligation to their workers."

The city is settling for one-third of the amount it could be awarded under federal law if it won in court, according to city attorney Denise E. Aguilera. "We gave up some [money] so that the employees could get more," she said. "Our main concern was that the employees get taken care of."

The court has determined that the employees are part of a "class." On Nov. 30, a judge will hear the application for the proposed settlement as well as any comments the members of the class wish to make, attorneys said.

Meanwhile, discussions continue in an effort to turn the 271-room hotel into the new home of the Connecticut Culinary Institute. In that deal, the institute would buy the hotel from Aetna, which holds its mortgage. A spokeswoman for the institute said the project is still waiting on state approval of $3.5 million in bond funding.

The Hastings would replace the institute's Farmington campus, although its Suffield campus would remain, the spokeswoman said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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