Does Caesars Palace Double Down on Younger, White Dealers?

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By Patrick Dorrian

Legendary Las Vegas casino Caesars Palace illegally allows customers to dictate the age, sex, race and other characteristics of the workers who deal their cards, a federal lawsuit alleges ( Berry v. Desert Palace, Inc. , D. Nev., No. 2:17-cv-00019, complaint filed 1/3/17 ).

Two table games dealers and a former casino floor supervisor—all over 40 years old—contend that Caesars frequently decides which dealers are assigned to particular locations within its gaming rooms based on customer preference. In addition, the casino has mostly avoided older and black dealers when it comes to hiring and promotions, according to a complaint filed Jan. 3 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

Such “customer preference” discrimination is on the radar of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, particularly as it may be carried out through staffing agencies and other outsourcing arrangements. The job rights enforcement agency reaffirmed its commitment to cracking down on this type of bias when in October it pegged “complex employment relationships” in the contemporary workplace as one of the emerging issues it will be monitoring under its strategic enforcement plan for 2017-2021.

Uber and other on-demand service providers also have come under fire for their customer ratings systems, which some argue may facilitate bias based on a driver’s or other worker’s race, sex or other protected trait. Moreover, EEOC Chair Jenny Yang (D) in a December interview with Bloomberg BNA signaled that gig businesses are likely to receive agency scrutiny if it is suspected they are operating in ways similar to staffing companies and their clients in terms of engaging in customer preference bias.

Ex-Floor Supervisor Claims Retaliation

The lawsuit against Caesars was filed by William Berry and Shane Kaufman, who are both black men, and Cynthia Falls, a white woman. They are 50, 60 and 63 years old, respectively.

They allege that the casino has engaged in a pattern or practice of intentional discrimination based on age, sex, race, color and/or national origin by assigning dealers to or removing them from various games or locations based on the requests or known preferences of customers. For example, Kaufman alleges that supervisors announced during a pre-shift meeting in 2009 that some customers had expressed a preference for “female dealers, preferably Asian-appearing or white.”

The same “advantaged characteristics” have shaped hiring and promotion opportunities for dealers, the plaintiffs allege. The casino has hired “very few dealers over the age of 40, very few black or African-American dealers, and no African-American or black dealers at all in recent years,” the lawsuit says. The favoring of younger, non-black dealers has led Caesars to largely disregard its seniority policy for dealers when awarding promotions from part-time to full-time status, the plaintiffs assert.

Caesars didn’t immediately respond Jan. 4 to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment.

Berry, Falls and Kaufman claim the illegal bias has continued even though they have complained. Berry, who started as a dealer in 1992 but was promoted to floor supervisor in 1994, allegedly lost his job after filing a discrimination charge objecting to the alleged bias.

Berry filed charges after a 2006 incident in which he was instructed to “commit illegal discrimination by excluding black dealers from a particular game based on the demand of a particular customer,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit, which alleges violations of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Nevada’s anti-bias law, seeks implementation of effective anti-discrimination measures at the casino; an injunction against further customer-based bias; a new internal complaint procedure for employees; and compensatory and punitive damages.

Gilbert & England Law Firm represents Berry, Falls and Kaufman. No attorney had filed an appearance yet on behalf of Caesars.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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