A state agency that regulates workers' wages found that two former employees of the historic Melrose Hotel were owed thousands of dollars in back pay and penalties as a result of dual complaints filed with the agency, claiming rampant underpayment and improper deductions.
In findings issued May 29, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment determined that the Grand Junction hotel violated state minimum wage and hour laws with two employees — James and Rebecca Hudson of Clifton — and that the hotel also improperly deducted wages from the paychecks of each when they worked at the hotel between February and June of 2018.
The state agency found that James Hudson was owed more than $6,700 in back wages and $8,403 in penalties. It similarly found that Rebecca Hudson was owed more than $5,500 in back pay and penalties of $6,913.
The hotel was also ordered to pay $3,950 in penalties to the division as a result of the dual claims.
The Hudsons apparently answered a Craigslist ad seeking a manager for the hotel. According to the division's wage complaint investigation, the hotel agreed to pay the Hudsons on a salary basis with a portion of wages applied to rent, as the Hudsons took up residence at the Melrose.
The division found that, when the couple's wages were added up, they were paid well below the state minimum wage of $10.20 an hour and that they didn't receive enough in overtime pay.
The state agency also found that there was no written agreement about the wage deductions for rent at the hotel, which is expressly prohibited by Colorado law.
The hotel was further dinged for not keeping an accurate record of the hours the Hudsons worked, which hurt their case when the claimants provided hand-written accounts of their work hours and pay statements for the time period in question. Employees with the hotel disputed the hourly records that the Hudsons provided, but they could not produce proof of the discrepancies they claimed.
The findings include an April 26, 2019, conversation with the employer — presumably the hotel's owner, Joya De Pasquale — in which she says she is "innocent" as both claimants were not managers and hardly worked. She also told division investigators that each was paid what they "deserved."
Reached Monday, De Pasquale called the complaints and subsequent findings a "rip-off" and a "scam."
"All my life I've never had a problem. These people invented things," De Pasquale said, couching her remarks about her former employees because she says she has an active restraining order against James Hudson.
"I should have looked at that before I hired them," she said, about James Hudson's alleged criminal record.
"(I'll) never, ever hire a person, even for a day, without running a background check," she added.
Publicly available information used in this story was not provided by the state division.
Cher Haavind, deputy executive director and chief communications officer for the agency, did not respond to numerous requests to provide the information.