'Rapid response' at the Hermitage Club
"The club will be providing support to the individuals who have been affected," said Meridith Dennes, spokeswoman for the Hermitage. "Our primary goal is to work with our labor force to find jobs. We brought in the Department of Labor to make sure people are placed in a timely manner."
The decision to layoff workers had to do with "preserving the long-term health" of the company, this week's unseasonably warm weather and less families coming up due to sports starting up, said Dennes.
She said all contracts for foreign employees on work visas are still being honored. She acknowledged the company's financial struggles have been "no secret."
The Hermitage runs a private ski resort at Haystack Mountain, a real estate group, a golf course, and inns and restaurants in the Deerfield Valley. The company experienced troubles paying taxes in two towns, water/sewer bills and vendors. Poor weather in the 2015-16 season, state permitting delays and a slow membership drive have been blamed for the shortfall. Complaints alleging illegal real estate activities and sex discrimination/retaliation have recently been filed with authorities.
Lindsay Kurrle, commissioner of the Department of Labor, told the Reformer teams respond to a business facing layoffs or closure "by quickly coordinating services and providing immediate aid to a company or worker."
"We will provide information about insurance as well as reemployment services," she said. "I think both sides of the mountain are affected, both Bennington and Brattleboro."
Her group anticipated meeting with 50 to 80 employees at the Hermitage.
"It's disappointing, and hopefully they can find a fix for this," Kurrle said. "In the meantime, we're going to make sure we help the employees who are affected and help the businesses navigate."
She said Career Resource Centers run by her group in Brattleboro and Bennington will be connecting former Hermitage employees to businesses in the region. The goal is to keep the minimum number of people out of work.
Layoffs are expected in areas with ski resorts, where seasonal jobs are offered.
"The reason this is different is because we're not at the end of the season in our minds," Kurrle said. "So this one was a bit of a surprise."
Dennes reiterated part of what she told the Reformer on Tuesday.
"The Hermitage Club is open for business," she said Wednesday. "The reduction in force over the past few days is an appropriate resizing for the services being offered."
Jobs were terminated over the last four days to reflect an "appropriate size for the services being offered," Dennes told the Reformer. Hours of operations at dining establishments were cut down and the ski resort at Haystack Mountain is scheduled to reopen for the weekend.
"We are doing everything in our power in the interim while these folks look for employment," Dennes said. "We care deeply about our employees."
If the weather cooperates, she said, the plan is to continue to open the ski resort on weekends.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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