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Valerie Miller

Wynn Las Vegas dealer sues for secondhand smoke

22 October 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- A Wynn Las Vegas employee is suing the hotel-casino, claiming it is an unsafe workplace because of secondhand smoke.

The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday, which seeks class action status, alleges the casino encouraged patrons to light up and disciplined workers if they complained.

The court filing by Wynn dealer Kanie Kastroll accuses Wynn Las Vegas of breaching its duty to provide a safe workplace for employees and seeks damages of more than $5 million.

Kastroll has suffered asthma and other health problems while working for Wynn, her lawyers allege. Kastroll has retained Chicago-based class action law firm Kamber Edelson.

The firm may be best known for its class action lawsuit against the makers of the Thomas the Tank toy. That lawsuit, which was based on claims the toy used lead paint, was settled for $30 million.

Wynn Las Vegas is the second major resort operator to be hit with a lawsuit recently because of secondhand smoke dangers.

Kamber Edelson is representing a former Harrah's Entertainment employee in a similar complaint filed this summer against Harrah's and Caesars Palace. Kamber Edelson attorney Jay Edelson called the cases "similar," but claims Wynn also failed to protect pregnant employees from cancer-causing smoke.

"Frankly, that makes me sick," he said. "I didn't hear that (from pregnant) Harrah's employees."

Wynn Resorts did not have a policy to protect pregnant workers from secondhand smoke, according to the complaint. That decision was left to their individual supervisors' discretion.

Wynn spokesman Ean Tivon said the company would not comment on the lawsuit.

Kastroll, a four-year employee of Wynn, says she decided to sue her employer to protect her health and that of her fellow employees and nonsmoking customers.

"I thought it was way overdue. I was concerned about my health and that of my co-workers," she said. "Customers come up to me all the time and ask for nonsmoking."

Wynn has a smoke-free poker room. However, Kastroll deals "multiple games" and usually works in a smoking environment.

"Only customers can request a smoke-free table," she said.

The lawsuit also alleges that Wynn Las Vegas allows gamblers to blow smoke directly in the faces of its dealers, and forbids the dealers from protesting. If casino patrons ask employees if they can smoke, the employees are required to say yes, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also notes that the resort encourages smoking by offering free cigarettes to gamblers.

Employees could be disciplined if they disobeyed any Wynn policies, the lawsuit claims.

"Dozens of Wynn employees were interviewed over the past six months, and the type of health problems ranged from headaches and asthma to lung cancer, Edelson said.

Kastroll's asthmatic condition was "exacerbated" by the secondhand smoke she was exposed to on the job, according to the complaint. She also allegedly suffered from shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea.

"I didn't have asthma when I came to Wynn," she said. "I can't say what caused it. Probably 20 years in casinos."

Making casinos smoke-free is not the goal of the litigation, the lawyer maintained. The purpose of the lawsuit is to force the resort to protect its employees at the same level as most other Las Vegas casinos do, Edelson said.

"Other resorts have better ventilation systems and some nonsmoking tables," he explained. "Wynn just has to do things as well as the other casinos."

The lawsuit against Wynn Las Vegas resulted from the Harrah's lawsuit, Edelson said.

"When we filed, we started getting all these calls from other casino workers, and the overwhelming number were about Wynn."