The Culinary Union files lawsuit against Las Vegas casinos demanding better employee protections

The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 filed a lawsuit against MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment in order to protect workers from the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

The lawsuit alleges that The Signature at MGM Grand and Sadelle’s Cafe at the Bellagio, both owned by MGM Resorts International, and Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar at Harrah’s Las Vegas, owned by Caesars Entertainment, didn’t provide reasonable rules and procedures to address the spread of COVID-19. The lawsuit alleges the casinos did not shut down when they learned about positive tests from staff, did not conduct contact tracing, did not inform staff about an employee testing positive for COVID-19, and “provided workers with flatly false information about how COVID-19 spreads and what its symptoms are, in an effort to keep workers on the job and revenues flowing.”

“This lawsuit … is the just the beginning of the culinary union’s legal efforts to make sure workers are fully protected,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union.

Eric Weininger, a cook at Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar at Harrah’s for six years, says that the restaurant did not handle a co-worker’s positive COVID-19 test properly. “I thought that the testings would be when we found out that we were in contact with a person who told the managers about it,” he said. He alleges the company told him he looked well enough to work even though he had not been tested for COVID-19. Weininger said he went home instead.

Jonathan Munoz, a food server at Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar for six years, says he was not required to get tested before he returned to work, but took one himself. “I did everything to follow social distance distancing,” he said. “We follow the strict protocol for three months. And now I come to work with a company that breaks protocol within a week. … I feel the company doesn’t care about my wife or my kids. I want to ask Caesars, ‘Are you going to take care of my kids because something happens to me if I get sick?’”

A food runner at Sadelle’s Cafe told the Bellagio that he had tested positive for COVID-19, the culinary union alleges. “There is not enough space for workers to social distance from each other in their workplace. Even after two positive COVID-19 cases, the company did not immediately close down Sadelle’s Cafe or work areas were the employees who had tested positive had worked less than seven days earlier.”

Jamie Young, a food server at Sadelle’s Cafe, says she was in close proximity with a coworker who had COVID-19. She alleges that her manager made no effort to do contact tracing and did not advise her to quarantine for 14 days per CDC guidelines. A “Bellagio human resources representative told Jamie that she would be safe to return for her shift on Sunday as long as she wore a face mask and did also not advise Jamie that she should quarantine for 14 days.”

At the Signature, Sixto Zermeno, a bellman at the non-gaming resort for 10 years, says he tested positive for COVID-19 on June 11 and tried to “warn the Signature and its parent company MGM Resorts, but was not contacted for two days, even as co-workers with whom he had worked, including one who later tested positive for COVID-10, continued to work.”

The union says that three of its members at the Signature who work in the front-service department tested positive for COVID-19.

Nineteen members of the culinary union or their family members died due to complications of COVID-19.

A full copy of the lawsuit for injunctive relief is here.

The culinary union has called for more stringent safety protocols at casinos, including daily cleaning of guest rooms’ mandatory testing of all employees for COVID-19 before returning to work and regular testing thereafter; providing adequate COVID-19 personal protective equipment for employees; enforcing social distancing and other COVID-19 prevention measures; and requiring guests to wear face masks in all public areas, which is now mandatory in Nevada, which Gov. Steve Sisolak made mandatory last week.

Employees at Five Las Vegas Restaurants on and Off the Strip Test Positive for COVID-19 [ELV]

Culinary Union Wants Everyone to Wear a Mask to Protect Workers from COVID-19 [ELV]

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak Issues Mandatory Face Mask Order Effective on Friday [ELV]

How Coronavirus Is Affecting Las Vegas Food and Restaurants [ELV]

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