Union Sues Vegas Hotel-Casinos Over Unsafe Working Conditions

  • Hotel-casino properties allegedly not providing safe working conditions amid pandemic
  • Bartenders Union, Culinary Workers Union filed lawsuit seeking injunctive relief on June 29
  • Guy Fieri’s Las Vegas Kitchen & Bar, Sadelle’s Cafe at Bellagio, MGM Grand's Signature named
  • 19 members of the two unions and/or their dependents died of coronavirus since March 1
  • MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment issued statements that they operated in line with health and safety protocols
map of Vegas under COVID-19 shutdown
Culinary and bar workers in Las Vegas filed a lawsuit against a number of hotel-casinos due to unsafe working conditions amid the pandemic. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Employees take action

Culinary and bar workers have sued a number of notable Las Vegas hotel-casinos, alleging that they are not providing safe working conditions in the midst of the current pandemic. The Culinary Union’s Bartenders Union (Local 165) and Culinary Workers Union (Local 226) filed the suit in the US District Court for the District of Nevada on June 29.

hotel-casinos have not provided enough protection for employees, their families, and the community

The main properties in question are Guy Fieri’s Las Vegas Kitchen and Bar, Sadelle’s Cafe at the Bellagio, and The Signature at the MGM Grand. The filing alleges that the said hotel-casinos have not provided enough protection for employees, their families, and the community to contain the potential spread of COVID-19. It also claims that the response to some of their employees contracting the virus has been “wholly and dangerously inadequate.”

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief through the Labor-Management Relations Act because of hazardous working conditions.

Calls for stricter protective measures

There are about 60,000 workers represented by the two unions in Reno and Las Vegas. The Culinary Union issued a video statement on Monday regarding the lawsuit:

As of June 29, 19 members of the two unions and/or their dependents died after contracting the virus since the beginning of March. The lawsuit calls for more extensive and regular testing for employees, enforcement of social distancing, and the provision of proper protective equipment. The secretary-treasurer of the Culinary Workers Union, Geoconda Argüello-Kline, said:

The mask is not enough.”

More statements from workers will be gathered and evidence compiled about unsafe working conditions in Las Vegas.

The city’s casinos were officially closed by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak on March 17 in the wake of the pandemic outbreak. They began reopening from June 4. To date, there have been almost 18,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, with 505 confirmed deaths.

MGM properties among venues named

The lawsuit outlines very specific details regarding alleged breaches of health and safety protocols by the named restaurants. One allegation in the lawsuit is that the staff was not properly warned after a co-worker contracted the virus. Potentially exposed areas were not subsequently disinfected, and people who worked in close proximity to these people were not quarantined.

The Signature is said to be operating an unsafe venue for its employees, with a number of its bellmen and valets having recently contracted the virus. It is also alleged that Sadelle’s Cafe in the Bellagio is not sufficiently protecting employees. Both hotel-casinos are under the operation of MGM Resorts International. The company issued a statement on Monday responding to the allegations, maintaining:

Nothing is more important to us than the safety of everyone inside of our properties.”

It outlined how the health and safety standards that are in place were developed over many months of working alongside health experts. It also detailed how free testing is available to employees in most circumstances and that managers have been trained in incident response protocols.

Caesars responds to allegations

Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen and Bar at the LINQ Promenade is also being accused of not properly protecting its workers. The property is co-managed by Harrah’s.

Caesars Entertainment, the parent company of Harrah’s, declined to comment on the lawsuit. However, it issued a statement on Monday that it acted in line with health and safety protocols after a restaurant worker tested positive for the virus. 

There is currently no requirement for hotel-casinos to close down after an employee tests positive for the virus, with the policies varying from one operator to another.