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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Casino Companies Face Overtime Claims

14 May 2004

LAS VEGAS -- Groups of security workers at Caesars Entertainment Inc. and MGM MIRAGE properties are suing the companies, saying they violated state and federal labor laws by requiring employees to report early for work and not paying them for the extra time.

The most recent suit, filed this month in Clark County District Court by 13 workers at MGM MIRAGE properties, seeks class action status on behalf of all security personnel at MGM MIRAGE, which is estimated in the hundreds of employees.

The suit claims that MGM MIRAGE security workers for at least the past two years have been forced to clock in 15 minutes prior to the start of their shifts for security briefings and haven't been paid for the 15 minutes.

Workers say they are entitled to overtime pay because they already work a 40-hour week. They say the company has refused to pay the wages.

MGM MIRAGE spokesman Alan Feldman said the company intends to challenge the suit.

"We do not believe their position has merit," he said.

The employees' attorney, Sharon Nelson, said research conducted with her law partner April O'Brien has determined that the situation at MGM MIRAGE is "widespread" at hotel-casinos on the Strip.

Not paying security employees after they have clocked in "is a policy used by all the properties," she said.

Nelson and O'Brien filed a similar suit against Caesars Entertainment Inc. a year ago on behalf of three security workers who claim they weren't paid for time in security briefings.

That suit obtained class action certification this year for the federal claims involved in the suit, but class certification for the state claims hasn't yet been decided.

Caesars has argued in court that paid work breaks provided for employees offset time spent at the pre-shift briefings.

The breaks don't constitute free time because they are still required to stay on property in uniform and could be called back to work on short notice, the workers' attorneys say.

Nevada Labor Commissioner Terry Johnson said he isn't aware of the lawsuits but said he is investigating the issue as part of a larger effort to craft the state's first regulations governing labor and overtime laws.

Johnson said he has received several calls from employers seeking clarification of the state's labor law as well as from employee groups concerned about employees not being paid for hours worked.

"What's going to have to be determined is whether (employees) are actually working during those 15 minutes and whether the employer has control over employees during that period," he said.

Attorneys for employers and workers as well as worker advocacy groups have attended workshops on labor law, he said. Casino companies generally haven't attended, in part because many casinos employ unionized workers that are governed by collective bargaining agreements.

Security guards and other security workers at MGM MIRAGE and Caesars Entertainment don't belong to a union and their counterparts at other properties generally aren't unionized.

Workers have the right to sue over nonpayment of wages and aren't required to file a claim with the labor commissioner first, Johnson said.

Casino Companies Face Overtime Claims is republished from