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.
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 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.