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November 27, 2014

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Going after deep pockets: Six employee lawsuits against Strip casinos

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Sam Morris

Encore, Wynn and Palazzo are seen Thursday, July 18, 2013.

Workplace lawsuits are a common headache for most large employers, including Las Vegas' booming Strip casinos.

Last year alone, 18,492 lawsuits were filed in federal courts nationwide over perceived labor law violations. The total makes up nearly 7 percent of all civil cases submitted.

From Mandalay Bay to Circus Circus, each Strip casino gets caught up in its fair share of that litigation.

Here is a small sampling of suits filed in the past year by current and former employees against Strip casinos:

    • Mandalay Bay

      Mandalay Bay managers fired a spa services director because she called her boss out for race discrimination, according to a federal lawsuit filed earlier this year.

      Accusing casino supervisors of illegally firing her and picking a young, Caucasian woman to replace her, Maritsa Victorian seeks at least $100,000 in damages.

      Victorian, 44, says she was tasked in May 2012 with interviewing candidates for a spa manager position at the casino. Her supervisor reportedly hired the first candidate interviewed, a woman described as Caucasian and under the age of 40.

      Victorian, who planned to vet two internal applicants — one of African-American and the other of Latino descent — was allegedly told by her supervisor to continue interviewing the candidates and to refrain from telling anyone the position already was filled.

      But Victorian felt uneasy about carrying out the interviews, so she went to the casino's human services director, according to the suit filed Feb. 24.

      Victorian, who had worked for the casino since September 2011, was subsequently fired August 2012 and told she "was not a fit" for the job. She also was ordered to pay the casino $6,800 in relocation fees that were part of her employment offer, the suit alleges.

      The casino then promoted its recent hire to fill the resulting vacancy at a lower salary than Victorian's, according to the suit.

      Victorian filed a formal charge of discrimination against Mandalay Bay with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Oct. 15, 2012.

    • Cosmopolitan

      A former drink server seeks unspecified damages from Cosmopolitan for withholding overtime pay for the time she spent changing into her uniform and delivering tips and credit card receipts.

      Scheherazade Pollins, who worked for the casino from July to November 2011, said she spent 90 minutes or more daily performing those duties, yet she was not paid for them because that time was not logged as work.

      Pollins said employees were required to wait to receive or turn in their uniforms at a common locker room before and after a shift. She also had to deliver tips and credit card receipts to the main casino floor once she was done for the day.

      The suit, filed Feb. 19 in U.S. District Court, claims the casino violated federal overtime laws.

    • Bellagio

      Bellagio is accused of mistreating a twice-fired cocktail waitress who says she was falsely accused of stealing from guests and having public sex at the casino.

      Lindsay Gambit, whose suit reached U.S. District Court on May 2, says Bellagio fired her on Sept. 3, 2011, after accusing her of having public sex with someone after her shift ended. Once she got her job back during a union grievance process, she returned to work on Oct. 18, 2011, only to be mocked by co-workers about the incident, the suit alleges.

      Gambit was fired again on March 23, 2012, after being “interrogated” for seven hours about a credit card scheme in which security staff believe she partook. She subsequently was arrested by Metro Police on three felony theft charges and is scheduled to stand trial in the case on Sept. 22 in Clark County District Court.

      Gambit seeks at least $50,000 in damages from her former employer.

    • Palazzo

      Omar Ceron, a former linen attendant at Palazzo, claims supervisors fired him in retaliation after he complained about race discrimination from fellow employees.

      According to the suit, filed Jan. 28, Ceron worked at the casino from Oct. 4, 2010, to early 2013 free of discrimination until a group of Cuban co-workers began harassing him and other non-Cubans.

      The group allegedly called Ceron an "indio," a derogatory term used to refer to dark-skinned Latinos.

      He complained about the abuse to human resources staff and was fired as a result, Ceron said.

      Ceron seeks at least $50,000 in damages.

    • Flamingo

      A pantry worker at Flamingo says she was unfairly penalized by her boss after a spat between co-workers and asks for at least $50,000 in damages from the casino for causing her mental anguish and violating her civil rights.

      Mary Knox, who has worked for Flamingo more than 35 years, says a supervising chef subjected her to disparate treatment because Knox is African-American.

      "The supervisor at Flamingo made her discrimination blatant and evident by constantly subjecting Mary to unwarranted disciplinary action, frequently calling Mary into her office, and frequently berating Mary with derogatory terms," the suit alleges. "Yet Mary continues to endure the torment as she cannot afford to resign from her position."

      Knox says the chef's mistreatment has continued even after Knox complained to the casino's human resources staff and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

    • Wynn Las Vegas

      Wynn Las Vegas staff denied backup to a casino guard who was under attack by a pair of guests in retaliation for him complaining about poor working conditions, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this year.

      Degarege Abate, who is of Ethopian and Jewish descent, claims staff there regularly made degrading comments against him, at one point telling him that he "can't understand (the English language) because your head is too small" and that "you are not American and your religion doesn't count."

      Abate began working for the casino July 2011, and complained repeatedly about the alleged discrimination as recently as June 2012. He also complained supervisors didn't provide him adequate backup.

      His employers grew increasingly hostile, according to the suit, and his bosses often denied him lunch and bathroom breaks.

      The mistreatment culminated on July 20, 2012, when two women hit Abate with a revolving door, punched him and hit him over the head with a vase in the casino, the suit alleges.

      Abate said his supervisors refused to send backup because they resented him for complaining about them.

      Abate, who has since been fired, seeks at least $50,000 in damages.

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