The co-owner of the Holiday Inn on Casper's east side, who is Colorado's Republican House minority leader, in 2008 allegedly propositioned a female employee who was then denied a promotion after she turned him down, according to a federal lawsuit filed in Wyoming.

Rep. Mike May's company, MARS Development LLC, also retaliated against three other employees who had complained about sexual harassment, according to their lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in April and later amended in May.

MARS Development LLC, founded in 2004 by May and Rick Hill, denied the allegations in its response filed last week.

"Defendant MARS exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior," according to the response filed by the company's attorney, James Worthen of Casper.

A call requesting comment from May at his Parker, Colo., office, was returned by Worthen.

Before filing their lawsuit, all plaintiffs filed discrimination complaints with the Wyoming Department of Employment. The department dismissed their claims, Worthen said.

"In each case there was no cause or finding of discrimination," he said.

Even so, the former employees received "right to sue" letters from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to their lawsuit filed by their attorney, Frank Chapman of Casper.

Chapman declined to comment.

The lawsuit alleges MARS Development violated the sex discrimination and retaliation provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and asks for compensation for the plaintiffs and an award of punitive damages against the company.

According to the lawsuit, the east-side Holiday Inn, 721 Granite Peak Drive, opened in August 2008 and the alleged incidents of harassment and retaliation started soon thereafter.

May visited the company's newest hotel on Oct. 5, 2008. Besides Casper, the Parker, Colo.-based MARS Development owns hotels in Limon, Grand Junction and Craig, Colo., and Vernal, Utah, according to the company's website.

The lawsuit alleges May asked the female night front desk clerk to speak to her in the hotel bar, and they talked about her discouragement about not moving up in the company and the sexual harassment of other employees.

The next night, May invited her to the bar for drinks, stared inappropriately at her, and told her she was doing a wonderful job and would be promoted, according to the lawsuit.

She refused to drink with him, according to the lawsuit. "When Plaintiff .... declined to have a drink with Mr. May, he pressured her by asking 'who signs your paychecks, and who is the owner of this company?'"

At the end of her shift, he followed her to a back room and asked her to spend the night with him, according to the lawsuit. She declined, and two days later she was denied the supervisory position they discussed.

She later resigned.

The lawsuit recounts the experiences of three other employees:

* During May's visit, the food and beverage manager -- the male plaintiff in the lawsuit -- voiced concerns to him about the sexual harassment of one of the bar's waitresses in September.

Two days later, the male employee went to work, was met at the front door, fired and escorted from the premises, according to the lawsuit.

* A bar waitress in September was subjected to numerous sexual advances and comments from a customer, including suggestions about joining him and his wife in their room for sex.

The hotel manager told her he was too busy to deal with her discomfort with serving this customer, and said "'take the receipt to your threesome,'" according to the lawsuit.

When May visited the hotel on Oct. 5, he told the waitress she could not refuse to serve any of the customers. She then was assigned tasks not in her job description, such as washing baseboards and walls.

Two days later, the waitress delivered an order to a room where the guest told her to take a pill and then made sexual advances toward her, according to the lawsuit. She was fired that day and given two weeks' severance pay.

* The fourth plaintiff was a front desk clerk and was assigned to human resources duties.

She was subjected to sexual harassment by a male co-worker, and managers rebuffed or ignored her complaints, according to the lawsuit.

On Sept. 21, she and a fellow female employee told the site manager about the harassment and that she had called the police because someone was stalking her.

The next day, the male co-worker either resigned or was fired.

On Oct. 6, she met with May and told her of his concerns. She was demoted two days later, and resigned nine days after that, according to the lawsuit.

The four stories reveal a pattern of discrimination and an intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to the lawsuit. "Defendant's violation of Plaintiffs' civil rights subjected them to a hostile work environment [and] represents outrageous and intolerable conduct in [our] civilized community and society."

Reach Tom Morton at (307) 266-0592, or at tom.morton@trib.com.

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