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April 16, 2014

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Casino dealers bring tip-sharing case to federal court

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Even as Nevada's labor commissioner heard testimony this week in the long-running dispute over tip sharing at Wynn Las Vegas, attorneys for casino dealers pressed the issue in a different forum: federal court.

Wynn dealers Quy Ngoc Tang, Leopold Gemma and Daniel Baldonado filed suit in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas on Thursday alleging violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The suit seeks to represent all affected Wynn Las Vegas dealers.

The federal suit claims that by requiring the dealers to share tips with supervisors, Wynn Las Vegas effectively is paying the dealers nothing, in violation of federal minimum wage and overtime laws.

Leon Greenberg, an attorney for dealers in both cases, said the new federal case is independent of the pending state case and neither case is dependent on the outcome of the other.

A request for comment was placed Friday with Wynn Las Vegas and its attorney in the state action.

The state dispute arose with a lawsuit challenging the policy at Wynn Las Vegas that immediate supervisors receive a share of gamblers' tips to dealers -- a departure from the usual practice in which dealers alone shared in the tip pool.

Wynn Las Vegas has long maintained the policy is equitable by reducing the pay gap between the dealers and their immediate supervisors. In many cases, the dealers were making more money than their bosses. Wynn Las Vegas has also long argued it has the authority to distribute tips in this manner.

The Nevada Supreme Court last year sided with a Clark County District Court ruling that the state issue should be brought to the state Labor Commissioner. The commissioner, Michael Tanchek, held hearings this week and will continue to collect evidence and accept attorneys' legal briefs through the fall before issuing a decision.

"Defendants have failed and refused to make the minimum wage and/or overtime payments required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to the plaintiffs because they have violated ... the FLSA, to wit, they have failed to allow the plaintiffs to retain for themselves, or retain for themselves through a tip pool structured in compliance with the provisions of the FLSA and otherwise authorized by the FLSA, all of the tips they have received from customers during the course of their employment by the defendants," the new federal lawsuit charges.

The suit claims Wynn Las Vegas has "effectively failed to pay any wages whatsoever to the plaintiffs, in that defendants recoup from the plaintiffs, through the taking of a portion of the plaintiffs’ tips, an amount far in excess of the amount it nominally pays to the plaintiffs from the defendants’ own funds, such actions by the defendants violating the purpose and intent of the FLSA, which is to make all employers pay FLSA-required minimum wages and overtime wages and all other wages solely from the resources of the employer."

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