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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Torment

5 April 2005

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Caesars Palace, claiming six of the Strip resort's female kitchen workers were sexually harassed by supervisors over a two-year period and that the hotel's management retaliated against the employees for complaining.

The lawsuit was filed last week in U.S. District Court in Nevada under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, claiming the kitchen workers had been the subject of harassment on numerous occasions between 2000 and 2002.

Caesars Entertainment, the parent company of Caesars Palace, is named as the defendant.

"We haven't seen the suit, but we are aware of it," Caesars Entertainment spokesman Robert Stewart said. "We believe there is no merit to the allegations contained in the lawsuit. We have zero tolerance for any acts of sexual harassment or retaliation. Once the facts are aired in court, we believe it will be clearly shown that these allegations are without merit."

Santos Albarron, a spokesman for the commission in Los Angeles, said the lawsuit was filed after a lengthy investigation by the federal agency and its state counterpart, the Nevada Equal Rights Commission.

Albarron said an attempt to settle the matter was made with representatives of Caesars Entertainment.

He said one of the workers is still employed by Caesars Palace while the other five "had either left or were terminated."

The supervisors accused in the matter were not named and Albarron said there were five involved in the alleged harassment.

The employees worked in the hotel's main kitchen area and were not part of any of the property's speciality restaurants.

According to the commission, the employees were subject to such actions as forced oral sex with supervisors; a male supervisor exposing himself to a female worker on several occasions and making lewd suggestions; a male supervisor grabbing a female worker in her private areas; and male supervisors offering favorable treatment in exchange for sex.

The lawsuit also charges that employees who complained about the harassment were subjected to retaliation in the form of demotion, loss of wages, further harassment, discipline or discharge.

"Obviously, this is some of the most egregious occurrences," Albarron said. "There were other instances of harassment as well. The matter can still be settled with the EEOC before it goes to trial."

The issue comes as Caesars Entertainment is being purchased by Harrah's Entertainment for $9.4 billion in a transaction that still awaits approval from federal antitrust regulators and Nevada gaming authorities. The deal is expected to close by the end of June.

A Harrah's spokesman referred questions on the lawsuit to Caesars Entertainment.

Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said state gaming regulators would shadow the matter because the case involves a federal agency.

D. Taylor, secretary-treasurer of the Culinary Local 226, which represents kitchen workers at Caesars Palace, said the labor organization won't make statements on such matters once a court case has been filed.