GALVESTON — The San Luis Resort, Spa & Conference Center is suing two former managers and Wyndham Worldwide Corp., accusing them of conspiring to poach employees and of stealing proprietary guest lists.

Island-born billionaire Tilman Fertitta owns the The San Luis, 5222 Seawall Blvd.

The lawsuit never specifies which Wyndham-managed property is at issue in the lawsuit. Court papers describe a beach-front hotel and spa on the seawall managed by Wyndham. Wyndham Corp. manages Hotel Galvez & Spa, 2024 Seawall Blvd.

“In an effort to mimic the success of the San Luis in Galveston ... Wyndham decided to target former and present San Luis employees to address its operational shortcomings in the Gulf Coast region,” according to court papers.

Wyndham officials declined to comment.

“As this is a legal issue, we aren’t able to comment,” said Christine Hopkins, director of communications for Hotel Galvez & Spa and The Tremont House, both Wyndham Grand hotels.

Confidential

In a lawsuit filed Monday in Harris County’s 113th District Court, The San Luis asserts former area revenue manager Michelle Cockrell and resort sales manager Tina Hooper both signed agreements precluding them from soliciting or hiring away any San Luis employees or disclosing their names and addresses.

The agreements required Cockrell and Hooper to keep business information they obtained while at The San Luis confidential and to not copy or use the information for their personal gain after they stopped working for hotel, according to the lawsuit.

But problems began last year when Wyndham hired Cockrell, according to the lawsuit.

“Shortly after she began working for Wyndham, Cockrell began to selectively poach San Luis employees,” according to the lawsuit.

“The San Luis received information from guests that Cockrell had contacted them to stay at the Wyndham hotel in Galveston, a location that the contacted guest had not previously visited,” according to court papers.

‘Just what salespeople do’

The San Luis sent Cockrell a letter advising her to stop soliciting employees.

“This sufficed for a period of time, but it did not appear her solicitation efforts of San Luis employees had ceased, as The San Luis continued to have an abnormal number of employees leave The San Luis for Wyndham,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also claims Cockrell last month solicited Tina Hooper to work for Wyndham. It claims Hooper, before leaving The San Luis, systematically copied and sent to her personal email account “very detailed and proprietary information regarding The San Luis’ group and business contacts, established and tentative customer lists, reports regarding upcoming and past bookings and prospects and various types of financial information.”

“After The San Luis discovered this breach of the confidentiality agreement, it immediately alerted Cockrell, Hooper and their new employer — Wyndham,” according to the lawsuit. “Rather than admit to their wrong doing, they denied any improper activities.”

The lawsuit also asserts Wyndham had a “casual and cavalier” attitude about the assertions.

“A manager at Wyndham Grand Hotel told The San Luis representative that in effect, no efforts would be undertaken because these types of activities (i.e. theft and illegal use of confidential information from prior employees to benefit their new employer — Wyndham) is ‘just what salespeople do.’”

The lawsuit

The San Luis in the lawsuit is seeking to stop Cockrell, Hooper and Wyndham from soliciting or hiring away anyone employed by The San Luis or its affiliates and from soliciting or contacting any customer or vendor for The San Luis whom either Cockrell or Hooper called upon or learned about while employed by The San Luis.

The lawsuit also is seeking the return of “all of the confidential information stolen by Cockrell and Hooper from The San Luis ...,” along with unspecified damages.

Island born billionaire George Mitchell and family own the Hotel Galvez. But the Mitchells aren’t named in the lawsuit.

 

(10) comments

Mike Leahy

Is my memory correct: Island born billionaire George Mitchell built and developed the San Luis Resort property, and then later sold it to Island born billionaire Tilman Fertitta?

If the old memory is correct, then there is perhaps a wee bit of irony in this story?

Island Bred

I think it speaks volumes to what billionaries and millionaries think of themselves and the minimum wage empoloyees they hire to go to court to say that "thier" workers are off limits for better opportunity and salary................. Good grief![angry]

Course when you think you own those who work for you this sort of ridiculous crap suprises just about no one. I hope they gouge each others eyes out and eveyone chooses hotel 6 over thier overpriced hotels.

Mike Leahy

Marguite: Agree with your points about billionaires vs.the workers that they think they own in an alledgedly free country. The only defense has been the same for over 100 years: "Workers of the World Unite". "One Big Union" and the words of Woody Guthrie's immortal Union Maid: "Oh you can't scare me I'm sticking with the union, I'm sticking with the union,'till the day I die".

If the workers (of course they appear to have been managers but, that title is abused by employers to get around various labor laws too) did not want to honor a non-compete clause, the time to stand up was when it was presented for their signature. of course, that takes real courage, especially when you need the job being offered. That is when the solidarity of your fellow workers will help you muster the courage needed.

Steve Fouga

Hmmm... I didn't understand from the article that the San Luis was denying the right of workers to seek better opportunities at a competitor. I think they are claiming the competitor is using illegal techniques to recruit the workers. In the defense industry (the only one I know a lot about), such techniques are seriously frowned upon, and not often used. I never heard of a case ever making it to court.

Interesting that poaching guest lists even matters. When I visited Galveston as a tourist, I simply chose the hotel I wanted, or picked the one offering the best rates at the time. Does anyone even pay attention to cold calls or emails from hotels?

Kevin Lang

There are definitely some questions regarding this in light of Texas being a "right to work" state with most employees being "at-will". You have to ask the questions about whether an employee is free to quit whenever they want if the employer is free to fire whenever they want. Certainly, though, no company has the right to steal competitive secrets from another company, whether that's customer, supplier, or employee contact lists, or marketing or pricing strategies, etc. However, I doubt that merely referring former co-workers to your new employer isn't generally enough to prove you stole anything from your prior employer. I think that poaching would imply that those employees has some special value not easily replaced at the former employer. I would think it would also indicate that special value would translate to the new employer, too. I would think that most companies would make sure they have good succession plans in place for their key staff, rather than attempting to enforce anti-poaching clauses.

Island Bred

They are spoiled rich kids having a battle over the chess pieces. I don't believe they are gate keepers of the next food source to solve world hunger. Both of these spoiled brats over rate themselves in my opinion.

You have to realise that many of the frequent fliers to these type of hotels are frequent fliers because they are treated as primidonnas on a gilligans island.. i think they are fighting over hotel guests more than employees but threw the employees in there for good measure. They probably do this to each other all the time.

Perhaps they should concern themselves more with if these employees can afford day care and insurance or a friggin vacation in one of these hotels to begin with. Rich folks with nothing better to do than fight over money and whose it is.

David Doe

It's my understanding that "No Compete Clauses" in Texas are not enforceable. Shout be interesting to see if Tilman can win this one.

Mike Leahy

Jake: defense contractors are not a very applicable comparison in this case because they are subject the the FAR's and violation of those provisions is a Federal felony.

In the commercial world actions that would constitute violation of a FAR clause is often only "bad form" or demonstating a shortage of integrity. Not the same as eligible for Levenworth.

Kevin Lang

Margurite, I doubt it's frequent flyer/hotel affinity guests. It's probably event planners. Corporations, Wedding Planners, Vacation Planners, Convention Planners, etc. can deliver hundreds of guests at a time along with banquet and other services to the hotel. The onesy-twosey types are going to book a room, and maybe have breakfast and a nightcap at the hotel, but will be spending a fair amount of money outside the hotel. It's nice revenue, but having those big events is what these resort hotels live for. With regards to frequent guests, Wyndham can reach them without having to poach guest lists. Hotel chains are always cross-promoting with airlines and travel agencies.

Island Bred

You know Kev - you probably are right after I think about it - that makes sense. The squabble makes no sense and truth is - they both still look like spoiled brats . This reminds me of the Kardashian dramas - I don't tune into that nonsense either.

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