Judge Rules Missouri Casino Employees Can Sue Penn National
A federal judge in the state of Missouri has ruled that employees at two casinos can sue Penn National for wage violations.
Penn National Gaming is finding itself in hot water after a Missouri federal judge decided to rule that employees at two casinos in the state can sue the company. Employees now have the ability to push a class-action suit against the company involving wage violations. Hollywood Casino St. Louis and Argosy Casino Riverside are the two casinos operated by Penn that are associated with the lawsuit. The plaintiffs claim the company is in violation of state and federal laws.
Details of the Lawsuit
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that Penn National took money from employee wages to pay for the cost of obtaining and maintaining state-issued licenses for gaming. With this deduction, the wagers for employees dropped below the $7.25 per hour amount that if mandated by the federal government. This is a violation of the state’s Minimum Wage Law and the Fair Labor Standards Act, a federal measure.
Based on federal law, employers can take out costs from employee wages if the removal will be to the benefit of the employee. In the lawsuit, it states that the gaming licenses do not qualify because they primarily benefit the operator.
It is interesting to note that a similar claim was presented back in 2019 against Pinnacle Entertainment and the judge ruled in favor of the employees. This is notable because Penn National Gaming acquired Pinnacle at the time when the ruling was made so they were aware of the legality of such deductions.
The lawsuit states that Penn National either knew the requirements and did not comply with them intentionally or, they showed ‘reckless disregard’ for the issue at hand when violating the federal law.
Employees of Penn National Gaming in Missouri also say that the company created a mandatory policy for tip-sharing, where table game dealers had to pool all tips. The money was then distributed among the dealers and other staff members that are not given tips.
Again, the plaintiffs state in the case that the tip-sharing model caused some dealers to take home below minimum wage. This practice is in violation of the federal law where tip pooling should take place involving tipped and non-tipped individuals.
It doesn’t seem that Penn National is going to be able to win the lawsuit especially considering the previous lawsuit involving Pinnacle Entertainment. It would not be surprising to see the operator try to cut a deal with employees to try and avoid further litigation.
Cases like this do occur, especially in the gambling industry where tips are prevalent among many employees. Other operators have faced similar litigation, such as Wynn Resorts. Dealers working at Wynn locations have been fighting for 12 years now regarding a tip-sharing scheme.
The case continued on through to the United States Supreme Court this year then moved back to the district court. It is important to point out that this case does vary somewhat because the operator pays dealers a basic wag and it is higher than the standard amount.
The Penn National case involves plaintiffs that want change where the wages are lower than minimum wage. The employees are also seek compensation by way of damages, legal costs, and any relief that the court deems appropriate. The lawsuit says that Penn National is in breech of state and federal laws as well as contract and unjust enrichment.
For now with the latest ruling, any employee of the two venues in Missouri that have worked for minimum wage or less from September 15, 2018 and on are eligible to join the fight.