Casino Cashes Out EEOC Claims for Older Female Applicants

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By Patrick Dorrian

July 6 — A Colorado casino-hotel will pay $250,000 to four women to settle claims by the EEOC that they were denied rehire because of their sex, age or both after the casino changed hands in 2011, the agency announced ( EEOC v. RCH Colo., LLC , D. Colo., No. 1:15-cv-02170, consent decree filed 7/5/16 ).

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced the agreement with RCH Colorado Inc., the current owner and operator of the Reserve Casino Hotel in Central City, Colo., July 6. The pact was approved July 5 by Judge Raymond P. Moore of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

According to the EEOC's September 2015 lawsuit, the four women ranged in age from 58 to 63, and were working as slot attendants or cocktail servers for what was known as the Fortune Valley Hotel and Casino when the property was sold in bankruptcy.

Prior to the sale, casino managers photographed floor operations employees and RCH later used the photos to screen out less attractive, older workers when it rehired approximately 95 percent of Fortune Valley's former workforce, the EEOC alleged.

The case should demonstrate for employers the EEOC’s commitment to protecting older female job seekers from discriminatory hiring practices.

“A growing body of research finds that older women face discrimination that is more prevalent and acute than other subcategories of the workforce, including that of younger women and older men,” EEOC Denver Trial Attorney Laurie Jaeckel said in the agency's July 6 statement.

'Sex Plus Age' Bias Alleged

Under the 3.5-year consent decree, charging parties Natalie Gilbert, Diane Morris, Constance Hediger and Eva Pridmore will share in the $250,000 settlement in amounts to be determined by the EEOC.

Gilbert, Morris and Pridmore were long-time slot attendants at the casino when they were fired and denied rehire. They were the three oldest slot attendant applicants—60, 62 and 58 years old, respectively, at the time—out of a pool of 14 and the only ones not hired, according to the EEOC.

Hediger, who started as a food server with Fortune Valley in November 2005 and later became a cocktail server, was 63 when she was denied rehire, the EEOC alleged. She was the oldest cocktail server applicant.

The EEOC sued under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act after investigating the women's charges and finding a significant disparity in the hiring of female applicants and/or applicants age 40 or older, the agency said. The lawsuit asserted claims of sex discrimination, age discrimination, and “sex plus age” discrimination.

The consent decree also requires RCH to revise its anti-discrimination policies with the help of an outside consultant, including by making a “strong and clear commitment” to the prevention of sex- and age-based bias or retaliation.

In addition, the company must provide annual training for managers, human resources personnel and all other employees. The training for managers must include education on “subconscious stereotypes,” according to the decree.

‘Rebranding Efforts' No Shield From Liability

EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill said in the agency's statement that employers can't insulate themselves from liability under federal anti-bias laws through “marketing or rebranding efforts.” She's based out of the agency's Phoenix office.

According to the EEOC's complaint, Fortune Valley was owned by Centaur Inc. when the casino-hotel was purchased by Luna Gaming Central City LLC in January 2011. Centaur terminated Fortune Valley's entire workforce of more than 300 employees prior to the sale, and Luna then hired back approximately 240 of them.

Luna Gaming employees made comments prior to the sale about needing to get rid of the “gray hairs,” and saying there were “too many old, fat, ugly and gray-haired employees” working at Fortune Valley, the EEOC alleged.

Fortune Valley changed its name to the Reserve Casino Hotel in January 2012 and Luna Gaming changed its name to RCH Colorado in January 2013, according to the EEOC.

Neither the casino nor its attorneys responded July 6 to Bloomberg BNA's request for comment.

EEOC attorneys in Denver represented the commission. Constangy Brooks Smith & Prophete LLP represented RCH.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

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