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Wynn dealer says filing led to firing

17 January 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- A dealer who complained that casino operator Steve Wynn orally abused her says she was fired from her job at Wynn Las Vegas.

Cynthia Fields said managers at the upscale Strip hotel-casino dismissed her Saturday for walking off the job without permission earlier this month, an accusation she denies.

Fields said she believes she was fired for filing a report with the National Labor Relations Board after a meeting in which she and other witnesses said Wynn lost his temper and made job threats if they protested a change in the casino's tip distribution policy.

"They wanted to get rid of me to prove a point, to scare everybody," she said.

Fields, 39, of Henderson, fears the incident will unfairly tarnish her reputation as a dealer and hopes the NLRB can put her back on the job at Wynn Las Vegas.

"Everyone is going to look at me as a troublemaker and I was only standing up for my rights," Fields said. "I was standing up for the rights of every employee at the Wynn."

An attorney for Wynn wouldn't discuss Fields' specific situation, citing privacy laws, but said casino management doesn't retaliate against employees.

"Employees are not retaliated against. They are allowed to express themselves in appropriate manners," Wynn attorney Gregory Kamer said.

Dealer problems at Wynn date back to a change in tip policies that started at the casino Sept. 1. The policy change broadened the tip pool to include more managers. Wynn representatives characterized the change as a redistribution meant to correct a pay gap that had some managers earning less than the people they supervised.

"We came to the realization that the structure we had and the compensation program that was in place wasn't working," Wynn Las Vegas President Andrew Pascal said.

Critics said the tip changes were an unfair dip into the dealers' toke pool and said Wynn should use the casino's money to give managers raises.

The changes prompted protests organized by the International Union of Gaming Employees, a small group that offers support and information to Las Vegas dealers. The protests drew dozens of dealers to the sidewalks in front of Wynn Las Vegas. But Wynn dealers didn't attend because, many said, they feared for their jobs.

Fields said her troubles began around Oct. 30 during a meeting that included Wynn, several members of the casino management team and employees to discuss the policy.

"I happened to be unlucky enough to be sitting next to Steve Wynn at that first meeting and made a complaint about it," said Fields, who dealt roulette and blackjack and had worked at Wynn Las Vegas since the $2.7 billion casino opened in April 2005.

During the meeting, Fields and other employees said, Wynn yelled, slammed his fist on the table and threatened dealers with pay cuts or worse if they protested.

Fields said she was seated close to Wynn and bore the brunt of the harsh words. She said the meeting left her terrified and prompted her to file a charge with the NLRB.

"He said that if we go union, a strike would be imminent and we would all lose our jobs," Fields said.

Kamer wasn't at the meeting but acknowledged it may have been heated. He denied, however, there were any threats.

"It was an informational meeting," Kamer said. "That is not to say these are not emotional for the employees."

The NLRB investigated the charge and on Dec. 28 determined there was enough evidence to file a complaint against Wynn.

The complaint is scheduled to go before an administrative law judge March 13. The hearing had been scheduled for February, but was rescheduled to give investigators' time to look into Fields' subsequent charge that she had been unfairly suspended, said Stephen Wamser, deputy regional attorney for the National Labor Relations board.

Wamser said there is potential for an investigation into Fields' allegation she was unfairly fired, although that charge is not part of the case.

"If that did happen. that can be part of this investigation," Wamser said.

In general, Wamser said, the NLRB has authority to ask a judge to order an employer to reinstate an employee if there is evidence the person was unjustly fired.

"But I have to say that is very rare," Wamser said. "Sometimes it really goes on the strength of the case."

Fields said that on Jan. 7 casino managers presented a critical "shopper's report" on her performance as a dealer. The reports, prepared by workers from an outside firm posing as customers, are one way the casino measures employee performance.

Fields said the report criticized her for not smiling, properly greeting and wishing her customers good luck. After managers delivered the report, Fields said she was too upset to return to work and got a supervisor's permission to leave.

Fields also reported the incident to the NLRB, which hasn't decided whether it warrants another complaint against Wynn.

Fields said she later got a call from a casino manager who told her she was suspended for leaving work without proper permission. On Saturday Fields said she returned to the casino and a manager told her, "We are separating you from the company."

Besides being without work, the incident has shaken Fields.

"I've never been in trouble in my life in a job," she said, adding that her job was the sole means of support for herself and her 1-year-old son. "I am a single mom. I have no insurance or anything for him."

Wynn dealer says filing led to firing is republished from