Suit claims sexual harassment, age discrimination against Aspen-area company
A Basalt and Aspen Highlands property management company faces civil allegations from a former employee who claims he was sexually harassed by his direct supervisor and fired because of his age.
The Romero Group, run by developer and politically active Dwayne Romero, was hit with a civil complaint Wednesday in Pitkin County District Court from Aspen resident Stephen Yochem.
Yochem’s suit claims The Romero Group fired him “shortly after turning 65 years old” in January 2019 in the aftermath of a series of incidents he had with his higher-ups, including his being the recipient of one person’s alleged sexual harassment.
Yochem also refused to sign resignation papers that were conditioned on him not taking legal action against Romero Group, the suit says.
The complaint names The Romero Group LLC, also known as The Romero Construction Management LLC, as defendants. No individuals, including Romero, who is an elected member of the Aspen School District Board of Education, are defendants in the case.
In a statement issued Wednesday night, The Romero Group said its “position remains that Mr. Yochem was terminated from his employment due to poor work performance, evidenced by documentation and complaints by home owners. We will decline to provide specifics as we wish to protect our clients. We are currently working with legal counsel to refute his false claims.”
Furthermore, the statement said an unemployment claim Yochem filed with the Colorado Department of Labor was denied, while a complaint he filed with the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies also was dismissed.
“Now Mr. Yochem has filed the complaint you have referenced,” said the statement, concluding that “The Romero Group does not tolerate discrimination or harassment.”
Yochem’s complaint said he was steadily subjected to insults and sexual harassment from a company executive when he worked for The Romero Group.
“(Yochem) is and was a diligent and professional property manager, but the constant harassment had created such a hostile environment that it was affecting (Yochem’s) performance,” the lawsuit alleges.
The Romero Group did not have a human resources department to which Yochem could report his allegations, so he took them to Dwayne Romero but he “was deliberately indifferent to it,” the suit alleges.
In the wake of Yochem’s meeting with Romero, he then became the target of a campaign waged by his higher-ups to remove him by “creating a false paper trail regarding anything they thought that could be used to get rid of (Yochem),” the suit alleges.
After he was fired, The Romero Group replaced Yochem with a younger, less qualified property manager, the suit contends.
The suit makes claims of sexual harassment, hostile workplace environment, retaliation and violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages, front and back pay, legal expenses and other costs.
Greeley attorneys Richard Blundell and Robin Cochran filed the suit on Yochem’s behalf.
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