Orlando Sentinel

Orlando SentinelOrlando Sentinel

Jerry W. Jackson | Sentinel Staff Writer

Posted October 7, 2005

Three Marriott time-share salespeople who say they were passed over for promotions and harassed because of their age are battling the company in federal court in San Francisco.

Kelly Armstrong, a lawyer representing the employees -- two of whom no longer work for Marriott -- said Thursday they will seek at least $75 million in damages in the age-discrimination case.

If enough current or former Marriott workers come forward with similar claims, Armstrong said, the suit would be re-filed to seek class-action status.

"This is a call to arms," Armstrong said during a telephone conference about the case, which was filed about a year ago but re-filed with amendments on Thursday. "What Marriott did was wrong, and we want to send a message."

John Wolf, a spokesman for Marriott International, said: "We believe the case has no merit." The company's time-share division, Marriott Vacation Club, is based in Orlando.

The employees -- all older than 60 -- allege in the lawsuit that their efforts to be promoted were rebuffed and they were subjected to age-related jokes or comments by a younger supervisor. "Younger, lesser qualified applicants were repeatedly chosen for promotions," the suit contends, and the supervisor made it clear he preferred, "young, hip, good looking" employees.

"I couldn't sleep at night," said former Marriott employee Richard Kittner, now 61 and living in Orange County, Calif. He said he was forced to leave the company when he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Armstrong said the two other plaintiffs, Victoria Roger-Vasselin, 63, of San Francisco, and Kenneth Arrick, 65, of Scottsdale, Ariz., also were "retaliated" against when they complained about their treatment.

Armstrong said that, while it is not illegal for a company to promote or show a preference for employees who are considered "hip" or "good looking," those preferences constituted "part of a pattern" of discrimination in this case. She said the supervisor named as a defendant is no longer western regional vice president of Marriott Vacation Club International but holds a similar position with the Ritz Carlton Club in California.