Longtime Sun Valley Co. worker files federal lawsuit alleging discrimination

September 13, 2013 

A 35-year employee of Sun Valley Co. filed suit against the ski resort owner in federal court this week, alleging sexual harassment, age discrimination and corporate retaliation.

Sun Valley spokesman Jack Sibbach said Friday he hadn’t seen Ann Erickson’s lawsuit, but “company policy is that we don’t comment on ongoing litigation.”

Erickson, a supervisor in the ski area’s SnowSports School, was 59 when the company chose not to renew her seasonal employment on Halloween 2012, about 10 months after an on-the-job skiing injury temporarily disabled her, according to the lawsuit. She was not medically cleared to return to the ski slopes until February 2013, but she alleges the company declined her request for modified duty that could keep her on the job while fractures to her pelvis and sacrum healed.

The lawsuit alleges a corporate pattern of discrimination, saying Sun Valley Co. “fired or forced out several older employees and replaced them with younger employers, it paid a highly qualified female instructor less than a lesser qualified male instructor, and (SnowSports School Director Allan) Patzer disciplined female employees more harshly than male employees.”

Much of the lawsuit focuses on Patzer, who became Erickson’s supervisor in 2008. Erickson contends Patzer inappropriately touched women and made offensive sex- and age-based comments to employees and customers, including calling Erickson a “slut” in front of other supervisors.

According to the lawsuit, Patzer ostracized and belittled Erickson and documented “alleged concerns regarding her into a file held by human resources.”

Erickson alleges she repeatedly complained about Patzer to Sun Valley administrators but was told to find a way to get along with him. The lawsuit claims Human Resources Director Matt Parke told Erickson the company “was 100 percent behind Mr. Patzer and that perhaps she was just being too sensitive and should consider ... resigning.”

When Erickson filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in late December 2010, she was placed on involuntary leave the next day and not allowed to return until she pledged her support to Sun Valley Co., the lawsuit states.

Erickson later filed three discrimination complaints with the Idaho Human Rights Commission.

“SVC took multiple and continuing adverse actions against Ms. Erickson as a result of her complaints,” the lawsuit contends. “This includes ... removing her from supervision of ski programs, excluding her from meetings relating to her duties, failing to accommodate her disability, continually ignoring her complaints, creating a hostile work environment for her and other SVC employees, and finally, terminating her employment on Oct. 31, 2012.”

The lawsuit seeks back pay, reinstatement or “front pay,” and compensation for emotional distress and ‘loss of enjoyment of life.”

Boise attorneys Erika Birch and Lauren Scholnick filed Erickson’s lawsuit in U.S. District Court Wednesday, and no hearings have been scheduled yet. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Ronald E. Bush.

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