Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleges Caesars Rushed to Reopen during Covid-19 Pandemic Which Violated California Labor Law

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the ongoing impact the coronavirus has had on the gambling industry.  The pandemic has been understandably disruptive, but the goal of the government and community leaders has been to balance keeping people safe and preventing the spread of the virus against keeping the economy from collapse and keeping people employed where possible.  Unfortunately, the gambling industry isn’t in any way viewed as essential, which places its employees in an incredibly tough position.  However, maintaining a balance isn’t just about doing what’s morally correct, but it’s also about following the various laws of each jurisdiction.  This year has already seen a casino close properties it had just opened after not having or enforcing proper PPE equipment which lead to an employee’s death.  Additionally, a suit was filed by Las Vegas hospitality workers claiming they didn’t have proper protections. Now, a new southern California whistleblower lawsuit has been filed by a casino executive that alleges he was forced to quit for opposing a rush to reopen.  The San Diego Union – Tribune reports:

A Harrah’s Resort Southern California  executive who resigned before the casino reopened in May has filed a lawsuit against the parent company, Caesars Enterprise Services, alleging the tribal casino rushed to reopen despite safety concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Darrell Pilant, who had served as the senior vice president and general manager, worked for the company for 23 years. He alleges that he was forced to resign  from his position because he said he didn’t want to follow the direction of his employer to reopen because doing so posed a threat to employee and customer health, according to the lawsuit filed Aug. 31.

This suit isn’t simply about an executive being pushed out of the organization.  This suit alleges that Caesars has violated California laws aimed at protection in order to place business and profits first.  The The San Diego Union – Tribune continues:

The lawsuit, which declares it is a whistleblower action, claims that in reopening during the pandemic, the casino violated the California Labor Code and Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations for the health and safety of employees.

“Pilant, among other things, alleges that Caesars constructively terminated his employment because he opposed and refused to carry out Caesars’ directive to reopen Harrah’s Resort Southern California,” the lawsuit states. “Rather than carry out the illegal and dangerous directive of his employer, Mr. Pilant had no alternative but to resign his long-time employment with Caesars.”

Harrah’s Resort Southern California is operated by Caesars Enterprise Services, but is owned by the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians and located on its 5,000-acre reservation in North County. Tribal Chairman Bo Mazzetti said profits from the casino make up about 85 percent of the tribe’s budget during an interview in April.

“The disregard for public health and safety outlined in this lawsuit is consistent with the arrogance we’ve grown to expect from many tribal casino operators in California,” Kirkland said. “By remaining open while other indoor recreational facilities have been forced to close, they have demonstrated a lack of concern for the health of their employees, guests and the surrounding communities in the pursuit of slot machine profits.”

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