Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes. (File Photo by Brad Graverson/Staff Photographer)
By Bill Hetherman, City News Service
POSTED: 08/28/13 – DAILY BREEZE|
LOS ANGELES – A judge Wednesday approved a $475,000 class action settlement of employment claims by nearly 1,000 current and golf course employees at the Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes.
“This was a hard-fought, but well-considered resolution,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Mooney said as he signed the settlement agreement, which puts a stop to a trial of consolidated lawsuits brought by lead plaintiffs and class representatives Lucy Messerschmidt and Dave Perry.
The settlement involves 913 golf course employees who worked for Trump National from December 2004 until February this year. According to the plaintiffs, 298 class members submitted claim forms. About a third of the total award, or nearly $160,000, will go to attorneys for their work, the same court papers stated.
Employee complaints generally included non-payment for missed meal and rest breaks. Some employees said they were not reimbursed for business expenses and objected to managers and supervisors getting tips.
Messerschmidt, a restaurant hostess at Trump National, also was taken off the schedule while Donald Trump was on the premises, because he “likes to see fresh faces” and “young girls,” according to her lawsuit, which was filed in December 2008.
Messerschmidt alleged she was fired after speaking out against alleged age discrimination and meal and rest period violations at the golf course, where she was hired in August 2006.
Messerschmidt claimed she was berated in front of co-workers after complaining, and that her manager falsely claimed that she had given a notice of resignation and unsuccessfully tried to coerce her to sign a document stating that she was quitting her job.
Perry, a Trump National valet who sued the golf course in March 2009, alleged that he was suspended twice in 2008 after insisting on taking meal breaks.
Outside the courtroom, the attorneys declined to comment on the settlement. However, in their court papers the plaintiffs’ lawyers stated that the parties “repeatedly tried to resolve this litigation for more than four years before reaching a settlement.”
Both sides took part in four mediation discussions before an agreement was reached, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys court papers.
“The courage it took to sand up to (Trump) here should not be underestimated,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers court papers stated. “Few people want to confront their employers, let alone sue them. This is especially true where plaintiffs’ former employer is an entity owned by Donald Trump.”
The plaintiffs’ attorneys stated in their court papers that a trial would not have been easy to win.
“Trump contends that the class would not be able to establish its entitlement to the full extent of the relief it is seeking and promised to mount a vigorous defense,” according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ court papers. “On the other hand, plaintiffs believe there is ample evidence to support the class allegations. Under these circumstances, and in light of the risks inherent in further litigation, it is reasonable for plaintiffs and class counsel to elect to settle the action.”