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Howard Stutz

Civil rights litigation: EEOC lawsuit takes circuitous course

16 October 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- A civil rights discrimination lawsuit against the Golden Nugget, filed this month in Las Vegas federal court by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, took almost three years to document, and during that time the downtown casino has had three different owners.

The lawsuit alleges that black and female dealers were subject to harassment, "including intimidation and threats of physical force, as well as racial epithets by co-workers, supervisors and third parties." The harassment and discrimination allegedly took place between September 2002 and 2003, said Santos Albarran, a spokesman for the EEOC in Los Angeles.

During the time period, the Golden Nugget was operated by MGM Mirage. In 2004, the casino was sold to Poster Financial Group and operated by Internet millionaires Tim Poster and Tom Breitling. A year later, the pair sold the Golden Nugget to Houston-based Landry's Restaurants, which has operated the Golden Nugget since September 2005.

Landry's general counsel Steve Scheinthal said the EEOC's lawsuit doesn't involve his company since action is alleged to have happened long before the restaurant operator took over.

"We've talked with counsel (for MGM Mirage), but this doesn't involve us," Scheinthal said.

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said the company's policy is not to comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit says that an unknown number of dealers were harassed during the time in question.

"Female employees were subjected to a hostile work environment based on their sex, including sexual advances and abusive comments," the lawsuit stated.

The EEOC said Golden Nugget executives were aware of the harassment, but did nothing to prevent the actions. The lawsuit alleged that casino customers also threatened employees in the presence of supervisors and the casino retaliated against employees who complained with disciplinary action.

Only one employee was named in the lawsuit, Robert Royal, who filed the original charges against the Golden Nugget in 2002 with the EEOC. Albarran said he was unsure if Royal was still employed at the casino. The Golden Nugget does not release employee personnel information.

Albarran said other employees came forward while the EEOC investigated the allegations.

He said the casino was offered chances to settle the complaint before the lawsuit was filed, which is seeking monetary damages from the downtown casino, including back pay, compensatory and punitive damages.

"Sometimes, other allegations are uncovered others during the investigation," Albarran said, explaining why it took several years to file the lawsuit. He said the EEOC tried to reach an out-of-court settlement on the complaint with Golden Nugget.