News, Culture & Society

Las Vegas hospitality workers file lawsuit against Harrah’s, MGM Grand and Bellagio casinos

Hospitality workers along the Las Vegas Strip filed a landmark lawsuit against three casino operators on Monday, accusing the companies of failing to protect their employees from COVID-19 after 19 staffers or their relatives have died.

The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Las Vegas, accuses the owners of Harrah’s, MGM Grand and Bellagio casinos of taking ‘dangerously inadequate’ efforts to safeguard workers or their families from contracting the virus.

Filed on behalf of Strip workers who are members of Culinary Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165, the lawsuit further alleges that the companies didn’t immediately shut down food-and-beverage outlets and other areas after learning of positive cases.

The companies are also accused of failing to immediately inform employees when co-workers tested positive and not adequately contact-tracing before allowing colleagues of infected employees to return to work.

The unions, who represent more than 60,000 hospitality workers, say the allegedly unsafe working conditions implemented by each of the casino operators violates their contract. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief under the Labor-Management Relations Act. 

Hospitality workers along the Las Vegas Strip filed a landmark lawsuit against three casino operators on Monday, accusing the companies of failing to protect their employees from COVID-19 in one of the first legal filings of its kind

The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Las Vegas, claims that the owners of Harrah’s, MGM Grand and Bellagio (above) casinos have not protected their workers, families and community from the spread of the virus and that their response to workers contracting COVID-19 has been ‘wholly and dangerously inadequate'

The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Las Vegas, claims that the owners of Harrah’s, MGM Grand and Bellagio (above) casinos have not protected their workers, families and community from the spread of the virus and that their response to workers contracting COVID-19 has been ‘wholly and dangerously inadequate’

MGM Grand

Harrah's

MGM Resorts said the company has offered free testing to workers before returning to the job and requires testing for anyone with symptoms or who might have been exposed

The lawsuit comes as one of the first efforts to hold employers legally responsible for infections as coronavirus cases in the US continue to surge. 

As of Monday, Nevada reported 734 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the state’s total number up to 17,894 cases and 504 deaths. 

The lawsuit specifically focuses on The Signature at the MGM Grand, Sadelle’s Café at the Bellagio, and Guy Fieri’s Las Vegas Kitchen and Bar, which is managed by Harrah’s.

Owners of The Signature, where at least three valets and bellmen have tested positive for coronavirus, are accused of operating an unsafe environment for its employees.

The lawsuit alleges that crowds are often so large inside that ‘employees are required to zig zag through throngs of guests, coming into close proximity to them’.

The Signature is also accused of failing to put up social distancing markings around the bell desk – and only putting up plexiglass shields to protect workers last week.

Valet staff at the hotel have also reportedly been put at risk by management by scheduling too few valet drivers and not permitting them enough time to disinfect vehicles before parking them.

Sixto Zermeno, a bellman at the Signature at MGM Grand for 10 years who is part of the lawsuit, said that when he was called back to work, the hotel was short-staffed, and guests weren’t social-distancing or wearing masks.

He said he hasn’t worked since June 9, having called in sick on June 10 with a headache and fever. Zermeno tested positive for COVID-19 the following day.

Sixto Zermeno, a bellman at the Signature at MGM Grand for 10 years who is part of the lawsuit, said that when he was called back to work, the hotel was short-staffed, and guests weren’t social-distancing or wearing masks.

Zermeno

Sixto Zermeno, a bellman at the Signature at MGM Grand for 10 years who is part of the lawsuit, said that when he was called back to work, the hotel was short-staffed, and guests weren’t social-distancing or wearing masks.

The lawsuit specifically focuses on The Signature hotel at the MGM Grand (above), Sadelle’s Café at the Bellagio, and Guy Fieri’s Las Vegas Kitchen and Bar, which is managed by Harrah’s

The lawsuit specifically focuses on The Signature hotel at the MGM Grand (above), Sadelle’s Café at the Bellagio, and Guy Fieri’s Las Vegas Kitchen and Bar, which is managed by Harrah’s

The lawsuit also accuses Bellagio’s Sadelle’s Cafe (above) of not doing enough to protect its workers

The lawsuit also accuses Bellagio’s Sadelle’s Cafe (above) of not doing enough to protect its workers

Zermeno said he wasn’t asked about his condition or offered any advice. He also says management were hard to contact when he tried to inform them about his diagnosis.

When he finally did get through, he says the company didn’t immediately close down the bell desk or valet booth where he had been working.

Other Bellmen and valets who working shifts with him continued to interact with and serve guests in the days afterward, the lawsuit says.

Zermeno said he joined the lawsuit to make sure the company takes the proper steps to protect its workers.

‘We’re not just numbers,’ he said during a Monday news conference. ‘We’re human, and I just want them to care.’

Hotel-casinos are not required by law to shut down venues after discovering positive cases among employees. Responses to positive tests vary on a case-by-case basis.

The lawsuit also accuses Bellagio’s Sadelle’s Cafe of not doing enough to protect its workers.

According to the filing, a food runner at the café informed the company that he tested positive for coronavirus on June 11.

Despite this, and considering there are areas in the kitchen where runners ‘cannot stand more than six feet away from the other runners,’ leadership ‘did not institute any new procedures to assist food runners in performing their jobs while socially distancing from one another or from cooks in the kitchen.’

The MGM Grand and Bellagio are operated by MGM Resorts International. In response to the lawsuit, MGM Resorts said the company has offered free testing to workers before returning to the job and requires testing for anyone with symptoms or who might have been exposed (pictured Patrons wash their hands at a designated station inside the Bellagio, June 4)

The MGM Grand and Bellagio are operated by MGM Resorts International. In response to the lawsuit, MGM Resorts said the company has offered free testing to workers before returning to the job and requires testing for anyone with symptoms or who might have been exposed (pictured Patrons wash their hands at a designated station inside the Bellagio, June 4)

A second employee, Jamie Young, said he was advised by the human resources department to get tested on June 12.

Young told the HR rep she had been in close proximity to the food runner she believed had tested positive. However, she says she was told she would be okay to return to work that weekend so long as she wore a face mask.

Other employees at the café say they were never altered to the food runner testing positive on June 11 on that day or otherwise. The area where he had been working was also no closed for a deep clean, the lawsuit said.

One of the chefs then tested positive on June 24, informing management of his diagnosis the same day. Servers and food runners at the Bellagio say they weren’t informed of the positive case until the next day.

The MGM Grand and Bellagio are operated by MGM Resorts International. In response to the lawsuit, MGM Resorts said the company has offered free testing to workers before returning to the job and requires testing for anyone with symptoms or who might have been exposed.

Managers have been trained in response protocols and work closely with public-health officials on contract tracing following positive test results, according to the company.

Guy Fieri Vegas Kitchen and Bar, co-managed by Harrah’s, is also accused of failing to properly respond to ensure worker safety when a food runner contracted the virus.

One food runner tested positive for the virus on June 18 after having worked from June 12 to 14, the lawsuit states. He interacted with other workers during these shifts and on June 12 was included in a ‘huddle’ meeting with cooks and other food runners less than 6 feet away.

Though informed of the worker’s positive case, ‘Harrah’s did not announce this fact to Guy Fieri workers so that they could take precautions,’ the lawsuit states.

It’s also claimed that management didn’t close the venue until June 20 ‘after it became clear that there were insufficient workers to run the restaurant.’

Guy Fieri Vegas Kitchen and Bar (above), co-managed by Harrah’s, is also accused of failing to properly respond to ensure worker safety when a food runner contracted the virus.

Guy Fieri Vegas Kitchen and Bar (above), co-managed by Harrah’s, is also accused of failing to properly respond to ensure worker safety when a food runner contracted the virus.

Las Vegas casinos were allowed to reopen on June 4 with masks voluntary for guests (A gambler sits at a blackjack table inside the Excalibur Hotel & Casino)

Las Vegas casinos were allowed to reopen on June 4 with masks voluntary for guests (A gambler sits at a blackjack table inside the Excalibur Hotel & Casino)

Three weeks later, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered anyone inside casinos to wear face coverings beginning June 26, following pressure from union groups

Three weeks later, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered anyone inside casinos to wear face coverings beginning June 26, following pressure from union groups

Caesars Entertainment Corp, who oversee Harrah’s, declined to comment on the lawsuit. However, in a statement Monday it said the company had acted in accordance with its health and safety protocols when it learned that a restaurant employee had tested positive for COVID-19.

Caesars says it launched an investigation at the direction of the Southern Nevada Health District, which identified co-workers who came in close proximity with the worker. The workers were then placed on paid self-isolation and the restaurant has been temporarily closed for cleaning, the company said.

‘To the best of our knowledge, none of these employees have tested positive for COVID-19, but none will be allowed to return to work until they submit a negative test at the end of the isolation period,’ the company said.

The lawsuit comes as one of the first efforts to hold employers legally responsible for infections as coronavirus cases in the US continue to surge.

Nineteen union workers or their dependents have died from Covid-19, according to the union.

Republicans in the Senate and the Trump administration have pushed to protect companies from liability during the coronavirus pandemic, holding it as a condition on the next round of stimulus relief checks for households and businesses.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said the risk of class-action claims and other lawsuits could deter businesses from reopening until the pandemic is over.

Las Vegas casinos were allowed to reopen on June 4 with masks voluntary for guests. 

Three weeks later, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered anyone inside casinos to wear face coverings beginning June 26, following mounting pressure from union groups.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


Comments are closed.