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Hotel Henry employees blindsided by closure announcement, will continue with wage theft lawsuit

Why Time magazine is in love with Hotel Henry
Posted at 5:58 PM, Feb 23, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Employees in the middle of a lawsuit against Hotel Henry owners say they were blindsided when it was announced the Hotel would close a week ago.

“My immediate reaction was just confusion,” said Gabriel Burgos Nieves, a former event manager at the Hotel.

He said the hotel publicly indicated it was in fine financial shape before citing “crippling” pandemic costs as its reason for closing.

“We are continuing with this lawsuit we want to make sure we see this through,” he said. “It doesn’t allow any accountability for the owners, they haven’t learned that what they did was wrong.”

We detailed some of the mistreatment employees said they faced, and now others are confirming they worked for free after threats from ownership.

“With this loan they didn’t need us to volunteer for shifts which most of us were forced to do to keep our unemployment,” said Morgan Molfino, a former event staffer at the resort center.

She said after one of her “volunteer shifts” bartending, an owner told her she can either turn over her tips or no longer collect unemployment.

“‘You choose: would you like to keep 100 dollars or would you like to keep your employment? You let me know what you want to do.’”

Employees at the hotel who were still listed as staff say they were informed their employment had been terminated two days after the news went public in an email shared with 7 Eyewitness News.

We were also able to see job listings on Indeed.com for positions at The Mansion on Delaware just a day after Hotel Henry closed.

The Mansion shares the same ownership as Hotel Henry and many employees would work at both locations prior to the pandemic.

“To have all of your positions terminated and then they’re hiring, but they don’t even want to call you doesn’t even make sense to me,” said another former employee, Ahshanaye Riley.

A big focus now for attorneys is investigating use of the 666,000 PPP loan received by the hotel.

The owner was cited as saying the paycheck protection would save jobs for the 130+ employees on staff, but those who were in and out of the building working “volunteer shifts” — which were unpaid — say they only ever saw 20 to 30 people in the facility at a time throughout the pandemic and many say they received their last paychecks in November.

The public reaction to unreturned wedding deposits and unused gift card balances have been a form of justification to the suing former staffers, they say, that their treatment was not unique.

“People are just next in line in a long series of mistreatment. Against guests. Against employees. And them closing isn’t going to change that,” said Molfino.

“If guests are experiencing this, imagine what the employees experienced (in the) three years of that building operating,” added Burgos Nieves.