Nevada’s updated regulations to protect gaming venue workers from sexual harassment and discrimination are getting mixed reaction from two leading law UNLV law professors.
The changes — which were approved recently by both the Nevada Gaming Commission and the Gaming Control Board — attempt to address gaps in older regulations. But some argue they lack key specifics.
The problem I see … is that they do not provide sufficient specificity as to what employers should have in their policies, and they do not require an anti-retaliation provision,” Ann McGinley, co-director of the UNLV Workplace Law Program, told Casino.org.
But Anthony Cabot, Distinguished Fellow of Gaming Law at UNLV Boyd School of Law, said, “The regulations are a reasonable response to the issue…. All major casino companies already have robust processes in place to define, detect, and prevent workplace discrimination and sexual harassment.
“These regulations address any gaps when persons accused of sexual harassment are senior management or owners,” Cabot told Casino.org. Specifically, he explained the additional rules are needed when senior management or owners “engage in bad behavior, but their status inhibits less senior executives from uniformly enforcing the rules.… Claims could be either ignored or handled outside the authority of HR directors — or civilly, by attorneys, without ramifications to the perpetrator’s job or license status.”
The new rules follow a much-publicized scandal involving Steve Wynn. The former Wynn Resorts chairman and CEO left his post last year. He denied allegations of sexually harassing or assaulting employees.
Cabot said changes in the regulations “create a reporting and investigative system — through expansion of compliance plans, requiring incidents involving sexual harassment, that may put the casino industry in a bad light — are investigated, acted on, and reported to the regulators before they make headlines in the national press.”
Rules Address Customer Harassment
Ann McGinley points out that “one very important change” is that discrimination and harassment perpetrated by customers, vendors and other third parties is illegal. It must be addressed in company policies.
“This goes beyond the discrimination and harassment suffered at the hands of co-workers and supervisors,” McGinley explained. “This is an extremely important change because — at least in the sex- and gender-based harassment category of cases — often it is third parties, such as customers and vendors, who victimize employees.
This is particularly true for women who are cocktail servers and others who wear skimpy costumes in the front of the house, as well as women — and perhaps men — employees who are subject to harassment and assaults in the guest rooms and halls of the hotel,” McGinley added. “Given the high rate of harassment that these employees suffer from customers, this is an extremely important signal that the Gaming Control Board will hold responsible the employers who tolerate such harassment.”
She said that given the number of cameras which show what takes place on casino floors, “there is no question that license holders know or should know about these behaviors, especially in the front of the house.”
As far as employees working “behind the scenes” — McGinley said they are “isolated and need the protection of the employers.”
Overall, McGinley said the regulations will require gaming license holders with 15 or more employees “to have policies that prohibit discrimination and harassment based on a broad spectrum of protected characteristics such as sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, religion, race, age and disability.”
The venue also must train employees on the policies and explain how to report discrimination and harassment. Employers additionally have to investigate allegations, McGinley said.
New Rules Send Message to Casinos
The regulations also “send a message to gaming license holders and to employees that the state takes discrimination and harassment seriously, and that it is within the purview of gaming regulators to assure not only that the games are played honestly, but also that employees are not injured as they work,” McGinley said.
“This is a huge and important change to the gaming regulations,” she added. “Moreover, casinos, when faced with individual discrimination and harassment lawsuits, can choose to settle those suits and hide the underlying facts from the public and the Gaming Control Board by requiring individual plaintiffs to sign non-disclosure agreements.
“Breaking the law, then, is not that costly to the license holders, but a regulation that could endanger the gaming license will not only create greater transparency, but will also permit the Gaming Control Board to investigate and understand if there is a pattern of discrimination or harassment in a particular workplace,” McGinley explained. “This should create greater incentives for the casinos to take discrimination and harassment more seriously.
“Whether this works will depend on how seriously the Gaming Control Board works to assure compliance,” McGinley said.