UVA Foundation-owned Boar’s Head under fire for wage issues

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Employees at the UVA-affiliated Boar's Head Inn say that even after two investigations found their employer had violated labor laws, wage issues persist at the resort. Staff photo. Employees at the UVA-affiliated Boar's Head Inn say that even after two investigations found their employer had violated labor laws, wage issues persist at the resort. Staff photo.

Hospitality staff at the Boar’s Head Inn, the Ivy resort owned and operated by UVA’s nonprofit development corporation, are complaining of unpaid wages and retaliation by management, and their outcry has shed light on a history of labor law violations at the University-affiliated hotel and country club.

In an anonymous letter mailed last month to UVA Foundation CEO Tim Rose, whose organization owns the Inn, employees said that despite twice coming under federal scrutiny for labor practices, “working conditions have not improved,” and staff are underpaid, shortchanged on overtime, and subjected to what they called “bullying” from managers.

The Inn has a less-than-spotless record when it comes to fair wage issues. Two separate Department of Labor investigations, the most recent completed last year, have resulted in the company being required to cough up more than $122,000 in back pay and $8,800 in fines for repeat violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The department first looked into wage issues at the Boar’s Head in 2000, when investigators from its Richmond Wages and Hours division began scrutinizing pay practices and the employment of minors. That time around, the department agreed to allow the resort to do its own self-audit, according to a report released under the Freedom of Information Act. The same report, released in the spring of 2001, revealed that the resort was underpaying dozens of staff members.

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers must pay employees overtime at 1.5 times their regular pay rate for any hours over 40 worked in a single week, and the overtime calculation must count commissions as part of employees’ regular rate. Certain employees aren’t covered by that rule, but in order for employers to count them as exempt, workers have to meet certain criteria: They must make 1.5 times minimum wage and get more than half their salary from commissions.

The 2001 report showed that 65 non-exempt employees were being shortchanged, their employers failing to count commissions as part of their regular pay when calculating overtime. The problem cropped up among desk clerks, whose commissions on certain sales weren’t added in, and among banquet servers, whose overtime calculations hadn’t included their share of the mandatory gratuity collected at events.

In addition, the resort’s self-investigation revealed 14- and 15-year-old employees were kept at work past 7pm during the school year on several occasions, a violation of child labor restrictions.

Eventually, the Boar’s Head paid more than $78,000 in back wages to the 65 employees, but wasn’t fined for the infractions. “This is a first time investigation and there is no evidence of willfulness,” the department’s report reads, and the company was reported to have been “very cooperative.”

But 11 years later, the department was again scrutinizing pay policy at the Inn. In March of 2012, the Richmond office launched an investigation, and while there were no child labor or minimum wage violations, it found some of the previous problems were still going on.

Between 2010 and 2012, some employees were improperly exempted from the overtime-on-commissions rule, according to the report on the investigation released last May and obtained under the FOIA. Others were being paid no overtime, or were only getting overtime when they worked more than 45 hours a week. The department also found that the company was failing to require certain employees to keep a detailed timesheet that calculated regular and overtime hours. And the Inn was still failing to calculate overtime pay rates correctly.

The investigation found the company owed 40 employees back pay amounting to $44,511. And this time, the department assessed $8,800 in what are known as Civil Money Penalties, or CMPs—fines for “willful or repeat disregard” for fair pay laws.

According to the investigation report, labor employees met with Inn management on May 30, 2012, and the company agreed to bring its practices in line with the law.

But at least some Boar’s Head employees say not much has changed. In their letter, written on Inn stationery and copied to C-VILLE, the employees said they’re still being stiffed on overtime, and claimed there are other problems, including retaliation against those who complain about pay issues. The employees say that hospitality staff’s entry-level base pay of $8.20 per hour isn’t a living wage, and that the Inn’s efforts to cut salary and benefit costs have led to middle managers and other employees pulling long weeks to cover unfilled positions, and receiving no overtime pay.

“Managers continuously are being told that they have to work 50-60 hours a week without any compensatory time or time-for-time off,” reads the letter from the employees, who did not identify themselves. “If you question the amount of hours that you are expected to work, the Manager is told, ‘this is the hospitality industry and if you do not like it—you are free to find another job!’”

The employees also claimed they have “nowhere to go for assistance,” because they believe the higher-ups in human resources share their identities with upper-level management. “The retaliation begins soon thereafter until you can’t take it anymore and you are forced to leave,” they wrote.

It’s not the first time Boar’s Head employees have written to those who run the resort to complain about working conditions. Around the time the Department of Labor was wrapping up its second investigation of the Inn, staff complained by letter to General Manager Matt Harris about bad treatment on the job. Harris responded in the June staff newsletter.

“I wish I could say that every team member is happy with every outcome—but I can’t,” Harris said in the newsletter. “However, I will strive to ensure that every team member knows that they will be heard and that they feel they have been treated fairly.”

His letter makes no mention of the labor law violations the company had just been fined for.

Rose, the head of the UVA Foundation, did not respond to requests to for comment on the employees’ complaints and the past censures from the Department of Labor. Neither did the UVA leaders who serve on the Foundation board, which includes University President Teresa Sullivan, COO Patrick Hogan, Vice President Bob Sweeney, and Board of Visitors member Victoria Harker. Instead, UVA spokesman McGregor McCance offered a one-page statement from Harris, in which he emphasized that he runs a for-profit hotel that operates independently from the University.

“The facility operates in a highly competitive market, offers market wages and competitive benefits,” he wrote. “The Boar’s Head will always review the local labor market, comply with employment laws and regulations, and pay a fair and competitive wage to its employees.​”

Harris said that the Inn “took immediate steps to address the findings” of the 2012 investigation, which he characterized as an audit. He also said the Inn regularly reviews policy on overtime exemptions with its attorneys.

But the employees who penned the letter of complaint said the company—and the Foundation that owns it—doesn’t do right by those working behind the scenes.

“So little pay for a four diamond resort serving the wealthiest community members,” reads letter. “It would rather invest in its property, landscaping, lighting, etc. than provide a decent wage for its workers.”

Employees at the UVA-affiliated Boar’s Head Inn say that even after two investigations found their employer had violated labor laws, wage issues persist at the resort.

  • nomatterhowmuchpolishaturdsatu

    Not only is the pay unfair, but the work environment is hostile and morale is the lowest I have seen anywhere. GM and HR director don’t care…don’t bother to engage with employees. The only time you see them in the Inn is when they are having lunch together in the OMR. Biggest bully finally termed after 2 years and path of destruction left-turned over Rooms Division management team in less than a year-many other talented employees left(a lot without jobs to go to) and others were forced to remain in miserable working conditions- thank goodness I an out of that place. Oh and as for the renovation
    s-cheesy

    • johnharry22911

      forced to remain? Freedom, the choice to quit at anytime.

  • lovinggunmaker

    Imagine if we lived in an area where treating your employees like garbage was frowned upon. The Boar’s Head’s business would suffer in such an environment. Of course, here in Charlottesville, workers are seen as having a status that is beneath the preppy, UVa-dominated culture. The people that frequent the Boar’s Head simply don’t care about their fellow community members being exploited by this evil business.

  • jandjforever

    Matt Harris has the worst reputation in the hospitality industry….. What is UVA thinking keeping him and the HR Director on staff and how many more great employees are going to leave! What a shame.

  • disappointed

    My husband and I stayed at this resort for our first anniversary in November 2012. So many things were not up to a four star hotel standard. It almost became expected as each thing happened to us. When employees are not respected or valued, it also comes out in how they perform. Treat your employees generously, and they will take your resort to its expected high standards. Honestly, we would not go back at this point unless offered a free stay. The atmosphere was just “off.” You could feel it. Now, we both know why it felt that way.

  • dontworkhere

    Former employee.i was forced to work overtome every week. When i asked to use my time off i was informed that there was not enough staff, id have to wait. My manager then took 3 days off for himself.

  • up the butt

    I really wouldn’t be shocked if this inn loses another star.

  • Karma

    The kitchen is a mess with the chef Justus, the turn over is out of control

    2 old mill room chef in less than a year, both have left to open very successful restaurants

    after leaving boar head. they left because of bullying by the head chef Justus , a lot of others have left because of him. they are running a 4 star dining room with temps.The one who remain are scared of losing their jobs.chef Justus has them worried because he holds it over their heads that he is the gm’s friend Mr. harris

    they can not find help without temp. they have had a lot of chef s and cooks leave without jobs what does that tell you.

    • buzzlightyear

      U mean 4

  • employeesdeservebetter

    As a former employee who handed in my resignation after the change in upper level management I can say with certainty that Matt Harris does not care about his employees as long as he is getting paid. Decreasing employee morale is on the rise as employees are not treated as humans but as pack mules. I know for a fact when I left for a better job that coworkers who were still working at the inn had no other career options or jobs to turn to – otherwise they would have been long gone. However, in this economy, continuing to suffer through the unbearable work conditions at the Boar’s Head is their only option. As of right now, UVA’s hard earned reputation is being mutilated by the upper level management. Hopefully the UVA foundation is able to replace Matt Harris with a more capable, knowledgeable, and most importantly – compassionate General Manager. The replacement would not only beneficial for the business but would be a good change for the sake of their overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated employees.

  • fffffffffffffffffffffffffffff

    This article saddens me, but it does not surprise me. There have been many letters written to the Foundation over the years about the top level management and nothing has ever been done. Unfortunately I am part of the disastrous “wake” of the current senior management. I loved working for The Boar’s Head, I enjoyed my job and I was very successful. Sadly, I spoke up directly to the General Manager to try to communicate the low morale of employees almost a year ago and my life was made extremely difficult after that conversation. I agree 100% that there is no one you can turn to in the HR Department, in fact the HR Director is the one who created a hostile environment for me personally. One year ago the General Manager held a meeting that was the most unprofessional thing I’ve ever been a part of – he called a large team together and he crucified the Director of Sales and Marketing (she was not allowed to attend or respond). The GM is insecure and he wanted her out because she began questioning him. He succeeded last October and there has been no Director of Sales for the past 9 months. They can’t find anyone willing to work for the current management due to the poor reputation. The current employees that are there and wrote this letter are the same employees who were complaining the day I walked in the door more than 3 years ago – I say to them – leave! If you are that unhappy take control and make a change. I am working for another very similar property and the support and compassion for me and my colleagues is overwhelming and amazing. It’s one thing to be stressed about work it’s entirely another to be stressed by WHERE you work – it doesn’t have to be the way it is at The Boar’s Head. It’s a shame.

  • Walt Heinecke

    On the story about the power brokers I wrote, as a citizen of Charlottesville, that it was dsappointing to see such a simplistic reflection of the elite culture of Cville re-presented in the cvlle. Well I had not yet read this article by Graelyn. It is the flip side and shows that the Cville is light years ahead of other outlets in presenting all sides of our community and its issues (although Dave McNair does some great reporting on siminlar issues like VQR). This article is fantastic and serves the public intetrest in the same way the Washington Post does, and to see this level of quality reporting in our own small weekly is heartening. The media often can shine a light on things we just ignore in our day to day middle class lives. Things we would rather ignore. This article does just that, it shines a much needed light on the social problems we need to focus on to make our community a better place for everyone.

    The juxaposition of the UVa power brokers article with this article is beyond interesting. This article opens up an important can of worms. This adds to other stories about problems with labor, it raises questions the Living Wage campaign has brought up about contracting and ethics. It brings up issues related to the culture of the Organization, the culture of the community, the culture of the state. In a right to work state, there is often very little workers can do to protect themselves.

    I have been perplexed by how thousands of people could come together to save the President from being pushed out, but there is hardly ever any similar community pushback on labor issues when they come up. The power of public protest cannot be denied. Whay is it not exercised in labor issues? This is where this article leads me.

    Thanks to the Cville for taking this topic on and sorry I had not read it before I posted on the power article, though I still believe the problems with elitism in the community are related to the theme of this story. Nice job Cvlle. Keep at it!

    • Linda Carr

      I disagree and can’t help but to wonder if any fact finding was done

  • reaping what you sow

    Unfair pay still occurring….(or ttrying to)…temps used everywhere as no one wants to work there. I had a friend , who was a temp working in Housekeeping and he called me to ask if it was legal to require that his workload must be completed. Furthermore he was told that he would only receive 8 hours pay even if it took longer-heck there are times that those poor people had 25-30 rooms to clean-unbelievable!

  • victimofthespiral

    I’ve been an employee of the Boar’s Head for several years now, and it has become clear that unless changes are put into place, the treatment of employees will continue to spiral downwards as time goes on. I feel safe saying that in a vast majority of cases, employees outside of the upper management feel demoralized, and also do not feel valued. The company has made some great improvements, and according to a letter written by Matt Harris to employees, business is on the rise. Unfortunately, little to no credit is given to employees, and wages are rarely increased.

    There is also an alarming trend– Mr. Harris’ sole concern seems to be maximizing the short-term profitability of the company. Many of the improvements and renovations I referenced earlier are beautiful initially, but are constructed at the “bare minimum” cost, and will not last. Additionally other questionable budget-cutting moves, such as the removal of the internal emergency response service, show that even guests are not on Mr. Harris’ list of priorities.

    It seems that the pace at which employees are cycling in and out of the Boar’s Head is increasing as time goes on. I believe this too is a result of the ideology of Mr. Harris. It seems that over the last several years the Boar’s Head has come to view its “human resources” as being as expendable as the carpeting of the hotel rooms. I have met many wonderful people in my time here– the company owes it to them to treat them with more respect and compassion.

    • victimofthespiral

      I also will add that the statement about managers that have to work 50-60 hour weeks is commonplace for many of the non-upper management. They are forced to work long weeks, then when they wish to take their time off it is virtually impossible to get any significant length of vacation or a remotely desirable time.

  • The bad…and the good?

    I submitted a post last night, describing the positive experience that I have had during my employment at Boars Head, and I see that only the people who have negative things to say are allowed to post comments. I hope you give me the equal right to share my post.
    I will share this again –
    I have been employed at Boars Head, full-time for 3 years now. I have worked in other facilities in my field locally in the Charlottesville area; one place offered no affordable benefits for may family, so we went without health insurance and the other place placed no value on its employees and treated each one as “just a number.” Compared to my experiences with the other companies, the Boars Head pay and benefits prove superior.
    We receive affordable full health benefits, dental, vision, flex benefits, 401k (Boars Head matches 50% on the 1st 6% invested. We receive tuition reimbursement of 1,000.00 per year, which equates to a full semester a Piedmont. We are also offered a personal coaching program to help with weight loss or smoking cessation, in addition to a membership at UVA fitness facilities. We are also invited to round table luncheons, we are served a very nice lunch and have an open discussion about the facility and any issues that we may have; I have attended 2 of these in my 3 years of employment and didn’t receive any “backlash” for my criticisms. All of my interactions with members of the boars, the GM and the HR department have always been positive.
    I am very sorry and empathetic for those who have had a bad experience or were not given their proper pay, I know how this feels. I worked at another facility where sexual harassment was largely ignored and that was a bad experience for me and when I spoke out about it, I was pushed out of the door; so I know how it feels to feel like injustice has been done, but the good things should be highlighted along with the bad. You should really research starting pay at hotels in this area and you may be surprised to find that 8.40 is above average. At The Boar’s Head,one does have the opportunity to take advantage of the tuition reimbursement and work toward a more lucrative position.

    • iwantthat

      tuition reimbursement ????? wait what

  • woodchuck2

    Wow, sounds like a pleasant place to stay LOL.

  • Dhooollll

    this is dumb. people have the choice to quit anytime.

  • Sweenytodd

    I mean, my experience with this hotel is excellent and i have no complaints. If staff was not treated properly they should’ve addressed the issue or quit. Yes, finding a new job is difficult but if they found the pay unsatisfactory they could’ve moved on… better yet not taken the position at the Boar’s Head initially. BOOM

  • buzzlightyear

    I was an employee of boars head for some time I resigned BC of the rediculous hour for no money, not to mention my vacation was taken from me when they were well aware of my vacation before I was even offered the job. It was taken BC many employees had already quit. But not to mention the chefs leave raw chicken, beef, and seafood out on speed racks for hours and hours at a time I can believe no one hasn’t gotten extremely sick yet! But my life is better now I have resigned from that dumpster! I feel for the employees that are still employeed there. Karma will get them!!!!

  • Linda Carr

    Shame on Brashear for even publishing such nonsense and did she think r to do ANY fact finding.please publish something that our community can actually be involved in. Unhappy employees should just quit and stop trying to get others in the company to get on their “negative wagon” . Wonder if any of these complainers have worked outside of Charlottesville? As a reporter did you do any fact finding b4 just quoting hat was put in a letter from one one with a grudge?

  • GLO

    In Charlottesville we preach what we preach and we practice what we practice, like Jefferson, we can wax eloquently about quality of life and the dignity of our humanity, however, our practices are not required to correspond, the only requirement is that we practice whatever works to carry on the facade. the Boar’s Head Inn’s boorish behavior doesn’t surprise at all

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