FEDERAL JUDGE REJECTS EEOC CLAIM OF "PATTERN OR PRACTICE" OF DISCRIMINATION ALLEGED AGAINST LOCAL CASINO OPERATOR
On June 2, 2009 the United States District Court for the District of Nevada rejected the claims of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) that a local casino operator, the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino, engaged in a “pattern or practice” of discrimination toward its employees in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A pattern or practice claim is a unique claim which the EEOC may bring when it alleges that “systemic, company-wide discrimination” has occurred.
The EEOC originally filed a lawsuit against the Golden Nugget in September 2006, alleging that the Golden Nugget had engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against its table games dealers by tolerating harassment of dealers by supervisors, employees and customers. The lawsuit was prompted by a Charge of Discrimination filed by one African-American dealer who claimed that he had been harassed by a customer who used the “n-word.” Although the dealer complained to casino management and was removed from the table, the dealer claimed that the Golden Nugget had not properly handled the situation.
The EEOC’s investigation ultimately turned up 5 other employees who similarly claimed they had been subjected to harassment, primarily due to racially and sexually offensive language used by casino customers. As a result of this “showing,” the EEOC asserted that a pattern or practice of harassment existed at the Golden Nugget.
After almost two years of litigation, the Golden Nugget, never wavering from its position that the EEOC’s claims lacked merit, filed several motions for summary judgment with the United States District Court. U.S. District Court Judge Brian Sandoval heard the motions during a hearing on May 18, 2009.
This week, Judge Sandoval ruled in favor of the Golden Nugget, dismissing all of the EEOC’s claims, and entering judgment in favor of the Golden Nugget. As an initial matter, the Court stated that a pattern or practice claim under Title VII requires a showing that an employer has a “standard operating procedure” of tolerating harassment or discrimination. In rejecting the EEOC’s arguments, the Court noted that the EEOC had only offered evidence of 6 aggrieved employees out of a total workforce of over 9000, less than 0.1% in all. These numbers, according to the Court, “indicate that the EEOC’s allegations fall well short of showing any ‘standard operating procedure’ of allowing or condoning discrimination.”
As many of KZA’s clients know from their own experiences with the EEOC, the agency often pursues claims aggressively, attempting to strong-arm employers into big-money settlements which the EEOC can then boast about publicly. The EEOC also tends to believe that it should get a free pass in litigation merely because it is the EEOC. As a result, Judge Sandoval’s ruling should be hailed as a sign by all Nevada employers that the EEOC is not invincible.
KZA is proud to have represented the Golden Nugget in this matter, and we congratulate our client on this important victory.