Lifeguard wins case against Hale Koa hotel
A labor arbitrator orders that the fired employee to be reinstated
A labor arbitrator has found that the Hale Koa Hotel wrongfully fired an 11-year lifeguard after he refused to work without protective sun gear.
Bill Kearsley, who filed a grievance against the hotel after being fired in November 2005, was ordered reinstated to the Army-owned Waikiki hotel with back pay and benefits by arbitrator Thomas Angelo.
The 30-day appeal window on the December arbitration award ended late last month.
Kearsley, a long-time union activist, also sued the hotel over free speech rights to pass out leaflets to prospective members in the area surrounding the hotel. He is the union organizer and business representative for Unite Here Local 5, which represents between 800 and 850 Hale Koa workers.
Kearsley had developed skin cancer while working as a lifeguard at the hotel and refused to work in the sun without protective clothing, seeking relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He later was denied sick leave or vacation and barred from returning to work.
Kearsley filed formal complaints after failing in his attempt to get hotel management to replace old lifeguard towers with new UV-protected glass towers and to provide sunscreen and protective clothing.
Arbitrator Angelo said Kearsley was fired as retaliation for seeking relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act and for his union activities.
Jonathan Swanson, a labor attorney for the U.S. Army at Fort Shafter said: "The Department of the Army and the Hale Koa Hotel take their obligations not to discriminate very seriously."
Kearsley had been president of the former union that represented Hale Koa's workers, the Service Employees International Union Local 556 from August 2004 until last May.
His attorney, Elbridge Smith, said the amount of back pay hasn't been determined. However, he will be requesting attorney's fees of about $90,000.