Aspen Skiing Co. CEO explains firing of ski instructor
For some time, most of you have been aware of the issues relating to Lee Mulcahy, an employee in our ski school. As of today Mr. Mulcahy has been terminated from his employment with the company. Generally, our practice is to keep employee issues as a private matter between the individual and the Company. Some of you may feel that the Company should never publicly discuss any employee’s status or performance record. In this case, however, the level of public communications by Mr. Mulcahy has created a different situation. In that context, we believe that you should have additional information and understand what has truly taken place.
By way of background, it is our view that Lee Mulcahy’s recent statements to the media about the wages of entry-level ski instructors, is a poorly-disguised attempt to distract attention from his own work-related misconduct. Aspen Skiing Company has repeatedly demonstrated that our ski/snowboard pros are the most highly compensated pros in the business. In fact, our research through National Ski Areas Association and the Mountain States Employers’ Council show that pay rates for all of our front line positions are at least in the upper quartile of compensation levels, if not the absolute highest wages offered in comparison to others. In addition, the following facts are important to consider.
• Being fully aware of those already high levels of pay, we increased pay rates by over 7 percent on average for existing employees in July of 2008, in spite of the recession.
• In 2009, in the midst of the financial crisis and a 7 percent drop in business levels, we did not cut pay, while a high percentage of businesses in our valley, our industry and across the country implemented wage reductions.
• Throughout the recession, we did not implement widespread layoffs.
• We maintained a 401k match in 2009, while many businesses suspended or reduced their match.
• When we did restructure our 401k match in 2010, we established a performance based incentive, resulting in an actual increased match of up to 6 percent.
• We continued to offer health insurance to seasonal employees, one of only a handful in the ski resort business and the only company to continue to offer company subsidized premiums on a year-round basis.
• We held health insurance premiums flat 2 of the last 4 years and only increased employee premiums by less than 10 percent on average over the last 5 years. This compares to average employee premium increases nationwide up to and exceeding 50 percent during the same 5 year period.
I could go on for a long time about all the efforts we have made to ensure we offer the finest workplace experience in the business and in our community, but you, our employees, have spoken by voting us a top 50 Best Places to Work in Outside Magazine for two out of the last three years. We will not rest on this accomplishment, but I am proud of the progress we have made to date.
None of these decisions could have been made without the support of our ownership, the Crown Family and the great work of the employees of Aspen Skiing Company.
Unfortunately, Mr. Mulcahy has chosen to attempt to discredit all of these efforts for the sole purpose of diverting attention away from the true issue, which is the fact that Mr. Mulcahy no longer meets the standards required to be a ski pro with the Ski and Snowboard Schools of Aspen. We pay the best, but we also expect the best and Lee has been told on multiple occasions, over several years, first verbally and later as a final written warning that he needs to make immediate and significant changes in his performance to continue working at Aspen Skiing Company. These performance related issues and warnings pre-date Lee’s recent activities. Ultimately, Lee refused to listen to the warnings he had been given – he refused to change his behavior.
While I am well known as being a very accessible CEO and I fully understand that this community is one where people are passionate about their pursuits, their opinions, and that their perspectives get lots of air time in the local press, it is time for us to move on.
Lee has been terminated today, not for expressing his opinions in the newspapers and to anyone that would listen – that is not the issue. Lee is no longer an employee of Aspen Skiing Company because his past performance was below the standards of care that our guests and community expect of our pros. His recent decision to invade the private space of our guest rooms and guest areas at the Little Nell Hotel, stuffing flyers under guest-room-doors, then, accosting guests in the Little Nell restaurant dining room and then to disrupt lessons and guests in our ticket office – while in uniform – is simply the final straw in a long history of blatant violations of our policies and a failure to exercise good judgment, the most important requirements of any employee. While Mr. Mulcahy has the right to free speech, he does not have the right to interfere with our guest’s privacy, or use working time, or working areas as a vehicle for expressing those views-and while doing so in uniform.
If anyone is concerned that this decision somehow stifles freedom of expression, I can assure you that is not the case. Again, our track record speaks for itself as we have often been criticized publicly by our employees and we have never taken disciplinary action against those individuals. From Base Village to policy decisions such as not allowing children in backpacks on our mountains, we have countless employees still gainfully employed by ASC, who took public positions against our proposals. We do maintain a truly “open door” policy and strongly prefer employees air their differences internally, so that we can come to a constructive resolution. However, Lee was not fired for failing to follow this protocol, he was let go because he does not meet the standards of performance required to be a ski pro and to wear the uniform that represents excellence in service, safety, and professionalism as established by the employees of Aspen Skiing Company.
Thank you all for your hard work, professionalism and spirit. Let’s continue to have a great winter.
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