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Bingo Group Sued Over Employee Classification

20 March 2002

LOS ANGELES, California – A federal lawsuit alleges a charitable bingo club has failed to pay some of its employees because they are wrongly classified as volunteers.

The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The suit claims that the workers, most of whom are Hispanics, "are not volunteers in any true sense of the word" because they work regular hours several days a week, and must ask permission before they go to the bathroom or leave the club.

The operation located in Hawaiian Gardens, about 20 miles south of Los Angeles, is run by the Irving I. Moskowitz Foundation. The suit claims the organization may garner as much as $50 million a year.

Under state law, charity bingo operations can use only volunteer workers.

"Nobody forces them to show up, and nobody says that they can't leave," said the club's spokesman, attorney Beryl Weiner. "They like what they do. Some of them have been there for more than 10 years."

Weiner said California law prohibits wages and salaries for volunteer workers, "and the Moskowitz Foundation will not pay a salary or wage in violation of the law."

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