Workers sue Las Vegas casinos over lax coronavirus protections

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Hospitality workers have accused two casino giants of failing to protect them from the coronavirus at their reopened Las Vegas Strip properties.

The Signature at MGM Grand, the Bellagio and Harrah’s have implemented lax rules and procedures that put employees at risk of spreading COVID-19 since Sin City’s gaming industry reopened on June 4, two labor unions allege in a federal lawsuit.

The properties — run by MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment — were slow to inform staffers when their colleagues tested positive for the deadly disease and did not immediately shut down work areas where sick employees had been, the suit says. They also failed to adequately track down workers who had contact with ill staffers, according to the complaint filed Monday.

“Defendants have 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,” the lawsuit reads.

At least three valets and bellmen at The Signature, a condo-hotel complex adjacent to the MGM Grand casino, have contracted the coronavirus, according to the suit. Bellman Sixto Zermeno says he tried to warn his bosses after he tested positive, but they allegedly failed to immediately tell other staffers about the case and did not try to figure out which of Zermeno’s colleagues needed to quarantine themselves.

Other bellmen who worked shifts with Zermeno continued to help guests and interact with other employees, according to the complaint.

“None of our upper management had a clue what to do and that’s unfortunate,” Zermeno said in a statement. “They put a lot of us and our families at risk.”

The Guy Fieri Las Vegas restaurant at Harrah’s and Sadelle’s Cafe at the Bellagio similarly failed to take precautions after food runners tested positive for COVID-19, the lawsuit says. All three properties also did not require their guests to wear face masks until Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered customers to don them on June 24, according to the complaint.

Culinary Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165, which represent 60,000 workers in Las Vegas and Reno, brought the suit through their joint bargaining agency. At least 19 union members and their dependents have died from COVID-19 since March 1, the complaint says.

In response to the lawsuit, MGM Resorts said it has offered free coronavirus tests to employees before they report to work and requires them for workers who show symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive. The company said it has also trained managers on “incident response protocols” and worked with health officials on contact tracing efforts.

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of everyone inside of our properties,” MGM Resorts said in a statement.

Caesars Entertainment did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning. But the company told The Wall Street Journal that it launched a probe after a restaurant worker tested positive, put some of the worker’s colleagues on paid isolation and temporarily closed the restaurant for cleaning.

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