Las Vegas Sun

October 1, 2014

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Hawaiian tourist suing Boyd Gaming after employees confronted her about gender

A tourist is suing Boyd Gaming Corp. after a group of employees surrounded her, accused her of being a man trying to use the ladies’ restroom and smirked at her when she told them she was a woman, according to a complaint filed in Clark County District Court earlier this month.

Susan Ho, who travels from Hawaii to Las Vegas often, was in town for a bowling tournament at the Gold Coast on Oct. 6, 2011, when the incident happened, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint, which accuses the company of discriminating against Ho because she is a lesbian, outlines the following details:

Ho was in the bathroom at the casino when a woman in the restroom assumed Ho was a man. Ho clarified her gender for the woman, and when Ho left the bathroom, five to six casino employees were waiting for her.

The employees formed a circle around Ho and one of them, identified as Luciana, pointed to the gender designation sign outside the restroom and curtly said, “Women’s.”

“I know; I’m in the right bathroom,” Ho said.

“Ladies,” Luciana repeated.

“I know; I am a lady,” Ho said, to which Luciana again said, “Ladies.”

Ho was humiliated, scared and didn’t know how to escape, attorney Robert Flummerfelt said. There was even talk of having Ho remove her shirt in order to prove her gender, according to the complaint.

Ho’s life partner’s son, who witnessed the ordeal, offered to go get Ho’s identification card in order to prove Ho's gender before she asked to speak to a manager and finished the tournament.

The next day, Ho and her life partner met with the tournament manager and Ranette Leong, a manager at the casino.

Leong was apologetic and said she believed a language barrier may have been a factor.

Flummerfelt said he doesn’t understand that explanation. Ho is Hawaiian but speaks English and, from what he could tell, so did the employees, he said.

“Where’s the language barrier? It’s befuddling,” he said.

During the meeting, the couple learned Leong had not reported the incident to her superiors.

Later that month, Ho received a letter from Gold Coast Vice President and General Manager Kerrie Burke.

“Our efforts to train our employees is ongoing and while I would like to tell you our training is 100% guaranteed, quite obviously it is not,” Burke wrote.

Flummerfelt said Ho had tried to settle out of court, but Boyd didn’t want to take any step beyond an apology.

David Strow, director of corporate communications for Boyd, emailed the following statement to the Sun: “As a matter of company policy, we do not comment on pending litigation. However, Boyd Gaming is committed to providing an environment free of harassment or discrimination of any kind, and all company managers and supervisors are required to attend annual harassment prevention training.”

Ho loved the Gold Coast but hasn’t been back to any of the Boyd casinos since the incident, Flummerfelt said.

The lawsuit asks for legal fees and for a jury to decide general and punitive damages.

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