Vail Resorts moves to permanently ban ex-employee from resort-owned property
The former employee says the company is to blame for the aggravation of his struggles with mental health
This article discusses suicidal ideation, and some people might find it triggering. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact your physician, go to your local emergency room, call Eagle Valley Behavioral Health’s 24/7 crisis line at 1-970-306-4673, Colorado Crisis Services at 844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255.
Vail Resorts moved to permanently ban a former employee from all resort-owned property Monday after he sent allegedly threatening emails to five employees following his termination from the company.
Daniel Herrick worked in ticket sales on Vail Mountain until March when he was fired for “unprofessional behavior and language toward Vail employees and staff,” according to a temporary civil protection order filed against him on Sept. 15.
“Herrick’s aggressive and threatening behavior has been ongoing for several months; however, it has escalated within the last several days to the point where Vail is now concerned that he will act on his threats,” the order reads.
Jennifer McHose, senior employee relations advisor for Vail Resorts, filed the protection order last month on behalf of herself, four other administrative employees and The Vail Corporation.
Now, Vail Resorts is working to make the protection order permanent, meaning Herrick would never be allowed to ski, or set foot, on property owned by the company again.
In Monday’s hearing, Herrick said his communication following his firing only escalated because of the company’s disregard for his struggles with mental health and the struggles of others who work for the resort.
Herrick lost his employee housing after being fired from the company and said he was refused information into who had decided to terminate his employment or why that decision was made.
Herrick declined to comment on the case when contacted Tuesday.
In Monday’s hearing, Lake County Judge Jonathan Shamis — who is filling in for an Eagle County judge — said the two parties have a few options on how to move forward.
The company can choose to drop the protection order after a “cooling off period,” it can make the order permanent — effectively banning Herrick from resort-owned property for life — or the two parties can work together to reach an agreement on a modified restraining order.
After a brief recess, the two parties were not able to reach an agreement, and they proceeded with a hearing to assess the company’s request for a permanent restraining order.
McHose was called as a witness and answered questions posed by Vail Resorts’ attorney and then by Herrick, who chose to represent himself.
McHose said Herrick was notified about the reason for his termination, and she was unaware of his ongoing concerns until he emailed Beth Howard, the vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain, at the end of May.
According to the protection order, the subject of the email alluded to committing suicide on resort property.
The email was “aggressive, a bit erratic and very concerning,” McHose said. She said she called Herrick to pass along some local resources for mental health support and to ask how else the company could help him. During the phone call, he became angry as he “did not like her answers or what she had to say,” she said.
The company asked the Vail Police Department to do a wellness check on Herrick, and he was connected with the Hope Center of the Eagle River Valley for mental health support services.
Vail Resorts covers mental health support services for employees up to 90 days after the end of their employment. By the time McHose connected with Herrick at the end of May, much of this time had already elapsed.
In the hearing, Herrick said the company was aware of his depression, and his supervisors did little to support him.
On March 12, Herrick said he was “verbally abused” by an angry guest for 10 minutes, which put added stress on his mental health.
Following the May email, the company did not hear from Herrick until the beginning of September when he sent an email allegedly calling out other employees by name and berating them, McHose said.
It was at this point that Herrick began asking for a lifetime ski pass in exchange for dropping the issue, she said.
In a Sept. 9 email, Herrick allegedly wrote that he would “exact revenge in the worst ways possible for Vail Resorts” and continued to allude to taking his own life on company property, according to the temporary protection order filed a week later.
On Sept. 10, he sent another email allegedly threatening to follow four administrative employees around and film them to expose them on social media.
The same day, Herrick went onto Vail Resorts property and “yelled profanities about Vail Resorts and his former coworkers,” according to the protection order.
In Monday’s hearing, Herrick said he was on resort property that day to pick up his ski pass, ran into some former co-workers and was simply expressing his frustration with the situation.
Vail Police later interviewed the former co-worker Herrick spoke with that day and she said she did not think he would “hurt or harm anyone,” according to a police report.
During this time, Vail Resorts took multiple measures out of concern for staff safety, upping security at the administrative building and allowing Howard and Capriotti to work from home. They asked the Vail Police Department to perform a second wellness check on Herrick at the start of September.
Herrick said he had sent previous, more level-headed emails to her department seeking to understand his termination before his communication escalated to the statements referenced in the company’s protection order.
Vail Police Detective Greg Schwartz served Herrick with a cease-and-desist order and no trespassing letter on Sept. 11.
McHose filed the civil protection order on Sept. 15, citing a total of five employees that Herrick made “specific threats” against — herself, Howard, Capriotti, Karen Reeder Pottratz and Rebecca Steindler McDonnell.
In the hearing, Herrick highlighted the report by Vail Detective Schwartz, which recommended that his case be closed “with no further action needed.”
Herrick spoke of the ways that gun violence, mental health and suicide had impacted his life up to that point. He said a permanent ban from resort property would “(strip) the last good thing away from me … skiing with my dad twice a year.” Vail area ski resorts hold a great deal of memories for him, he said.
Ultimately, Judge Shamis suggested continuing the case for 90 days to give Herrick time to get a mental health evaluation and to begin following any recommendations that might come out of said evaluation.
This could serve both sides and might allow Vail Resorts to feel comfortable dropping or more significantly modifying the permanent restraining order, Shamis said. If not, then they will be back where they started, and he will rule on whether to grant the permanent ban at that time.
Being willing to get a mental health evaluation “might be your lifeline for continuing to ski with your dad,” Shamis said. Herrick said he would do whatever it takes.
Vail Resorts’ temporary protection order against Herrick will stay in effect as he completes the evaluation. The two parties’ next court appearance is set for 2 p.m. on Dec. 27, just before the first ski trip that Herrick has planned with his father.
Email Kelli Duncan at email@example.com