Asheville country club faces discrimination lawsuit

RALEIGH — An exclusive golf club near Asheville is facing allegations of discrimination based on disability and age and has been sued by a current employee and a former employee over alleged workplace violations.

The Biltmore Forest County Club (BFCC) has been sued by a former employee of its Men’s Grill and by its current golf shop manager. The club, according to its website, is a private, invitation-only club located in Asheville.

Last month, Carlos Rodeia, a former server and manager of the Men’s Grill at BFCC, sued BFCC alleging wrongful discharge and violations of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. On Jan. 5, 2018, longtime golf shop manager Sheila Fender sued BFCC and 14 John Doe defendants who are, according to a civil complaint, members of the club’s board of governors, alleging violations of the N.C. Wage & Hour Act and federal Fair Labor Standards Act for failure to pay her overtime.

“All Mrs. Fender seeks is to put a halt to the discrimination and retaliation alleged in recent legal actions filed by multiple longtime Biltmore Forest Country Club employees and to rectify the club’s failure to pay her overtime wages as required by state and federal wage laws so that she can continue her work for a club that she loves and has faithfully served for more than 44 years,” said Fender’s attorney, Kellam Warren of Mainsail Lawyers in Asheville.

Within the pleadings filed by Fender, Exhibit A was a letter addressed to the club’s board of governors on Dec. 5, 2017, in which she reiterated her allegations related to wage and hour claims and made allegations of workplace discrimination by the club’s golf pro, Jon Rector. She also alleged in her letter that the club’s management now forbids her from attending the club’s annual shareholder meeting though she is a shareholder. Fender’s letter asked the board to terminate Rector immediately.

Biltmore Forest Country Club responded to Fender’s Dec. 5 letter through its lawyer, Jon Yarbrough of the law firm Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete LLP of Asheville, on Jan. 1, 2018. Yarbrough’s letter, addressed to Kellam Warren, said “the Board appreciates Ms. Fender’s long service to the club,” but that Fender’s demand for “the termination of Head Golf Professional Jon Rector is unacceptable.” Yarbrough’s letter also noted that Rector “has the full and continued support of the board of governors” and that “the club is not going to terminate his employment.”

When reached for comment by North State Journal, Yarbrough stated that the club “prevailed at the EEOC level” with respect to allegations by Rodeia and that the club had removed Rodeia’s lawsuit “to a federal court and filed the appropriate motion to dismiss.”

With respect to Fender’s lawsuit, Yarbrough said, “we are aware of it, but it hasn’t been served.”