MGM Units, Vegas Unions End COVID-19 Dispute

By Mike LaSusa
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Law360 (August 10, 2020, 10:20 PM EDT) -- Las Vegas casino unions and MGM Resorts announced on Monday that they have resolved a dispute centering on allegations that the resorts' "unreasonable" COVID-19 rules didn't protect employees.

The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 said in a joint statement with MGM that the two sides had agreed to end a legal battle that was voluntarily sent to arbitration last month.

"We have resolved the lawsuit and the underlying grievances, and we have worked together to get first-in-the nation legislation to protect workers in the hospitality industry," the unions and the company said.

The statement did not provide further details on the agreement to drop the dispute.

The unions' joint bargaining unit, the Local Joint Executive Board of Las Vegas, filed suit in June in Nevada federal court, claiming the casinos and resorts' procedures for dealing with workers who contracted COVID-19 were "wholly and dangerously inadequate."

At least 19 of the unions' members and their dependents have died from COVID-19 since March, according to the complaint.

The suit said the companies only encouraged guests to wear face masks in public areas rather than requiring them to do so before a mandate from the governor, despite "overwhelming evidence of the importance of mandating facial coverings by guests in public areas of casinos and hotels." Workers, however, were required to wear masks, according to the suit.

Further, the unions said, the employers failed to adequately respond to and inform workers about their colleagues' positive COVID-19 tests.

In addition to naming two subsidiaries of MGM, the Signature and Bellagio, the lawsuit brought similar claims against Harrah's Las Vegas LLC that centered on the restaurant Guy Fieri Las Vegas.

After an early attempt by the Bellagio and Signature to dismiss the suit, those companies and the unions agreed to arbitrate the claims before reaching the deal announced Monday.

However, the unions have not dropped claims against Harrah's, though the company has filed a motion seeking to dismiss the case. According to court records, the unions' response to the dismissal bid is due Monday, but it does not appear on the docket.

Harrah's couldn't be reached late Monday for comment.

The Local Joint Executive Board of Las Vegas is represented by Paul L. More, Sarah Varela and Kim Weber of McCracken Stemerman & Holsberry LLP.

Bellagio and Signature were represented in district court by Paul T. Trimmer, Joshua A. Sliker and Lynne McChrystal of Jackson Lewis PC.

Harrahs is represented by Mark J. Ricciardi and Brian L. Bradford of Fisher Phillips, and Jacqueline A. Godoy of Stokes Wagner ALC.

The case is Local Joint Executive Board of Las Vegas v. Harrah's Las Vegas LLC et al., case number 2:20-cv-01221, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

-- Additional reporting by Craig Clough. Editing by Emily Kokoll.

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