A former sales representative for Properties of The Villages has agreed to a settlement on the eve of a federal trial in which her former colleagues are being sued.
The trial is set to begin Monday morning at the federal courthouse in Tampa in a lawsuit Properties of The Villages has filed against former sales representatives Jason Kranz and his wife Angela, Christopher Day, Nanette Elliott, Jan Hughes, Angie Taylor and Kelly Shipes.
Cynthia Hughes had been named in the lawsuit but has agreed to an 11th hour settlement with her former employer.
Former top producers Kranz and Day left Properties of The Villages in December 2019 to form KD Premier Realty. They lured some of their colleagues away from Properties of The Villages to join them in the nascent venture.
Properties of The Villages claimed that Hughes violated certain restrictive covenants in an Independent Contractor Agreement she had signed. Hughes and the other defendants filed a counterclaim alleging that they were entitled to overtime compensation pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act.
A settlement agreement filed in court on Thursday, indicates that Hughes has agreed to pay $5,000 in attorney’s fees to Properties of The Villages. She is also restricted from engaging in any competitive activities for 18 months when it comes to Properties of The Villages, “as well as using or divulging certain confidential or proprietary information,” the court document said.
Hughes worked in real estate in New York before moving to The Villages in 2004. The Buffalo, N.Y. native had an interview with Properties of The Villages on the day she and her husband closed on their house. In January 2005, she began working as an hourly guest coordinator and later that year signed an independent contractor agreement as she moved into a sales representative role. She left Properties of The Villages to join KD Premier Realty.
In a pre-trial deposition, she described the Tap Report, a monthly synopsis that documented the performance of Properties of The Villages representatives from top to bottom.
“It shows how many sales you’ve had total, how many are new homes, how many of preowned homes, how many — it shows all of your statistics,” Hughes said. “It shows your personal market share percentage. It shows everything. It shows by rank how your — what your tenure is.”
She said sales people who didn’t meet their quota were let go.
Hughes revealed the pressure to support political candidates favored by The Villages, with campaign donations and their votes.
During the deposition, she was shown a 2012 letter from Gary and Renee Morse soliciting contributions for the Mitt Romney campaign. The letter was mailed to her home.
Hughes said she was unsure of what she should do. She said it didn’t feel right.
“And I felt intimidated like I had to contribute. They’re sending this to you and they’re telling you to send it back to the executive office. So they know who is contributing and who is not. And I felt like I had to or my job might be in jeopardy. I just felt like I had to,” Hughes said in the deposition.
She said she never had an employer make such a request. Even with the Morse family’s well-known record for political activity, Hughes said she was surprised.
And there were other troubling incidents.
“They’ve had other people that were running for political positions in The Villages before and heavily promoted them,” Hughes said under oath.
“At sales meetings they’ve had people like (Villages Vice President for Community Relations) Gary Lester in there with pre-filled out forms telling us how they would like you to vote. Not that you should vote this way, but it would be great if you did vote this way so that The Villages could keep growing and you could still have your jobs and have a way to – have a way to support your families,” Hughes said.