Penn National Smoker Employees File Lawsuit
A class action lawsuit has been filed against Penn National by employees who smoke.
A class action lawsuit was filed by around 1,500 employees of the Penn National Gaming company. The employees involved in the suit are regular smokers and feel that they should not be penalized for it. The suit was first filed in Missouri in 2020 by employees within two stats who say they are paying $50 per month due to their smoking status. Penn National says the payment goes towards the higher insurance premiums they pay for tobacco users.
The Case Moves to Federal Court
The lawsuit started in the Platte County Circuit Court and since moved on to the Western District of Missouri court. The attorney’s representing the employees say that Penn National has done very little to encourage the employees to complete a cessation program to stop smoking and avoid the extra charge.
Alex Ricke, an attorney representing the employees, said that a notice is important in this instance, especially if the employer is legitimately concerned about the health of employees. A tobacco cessation program would help with that.
Currently, Penn National operates more than 40 casinos in 19 different states across the United States. There are 18,000 employees within the company’s properties and those involved in the suit come from the Hollywood Casino St. Louis, the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway, and the Argosy Casino Riverside. Each of these venues are located in Missouri.
The plaintiffs in the case say that they should not have to pay the $50 fee if they complete a smoking cessation program. US District Court Judge Stephen Bough recently decided that the lawsuit can move forward with a formal hearing.
The judge said that the suit must move forward as the monetary amounts of tobacco surcharge would not likely be worth separate lawsuits being filed. It is expected that the legal challenge will come down to whether the surcharge by the casino is in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act as well as the fiduciary duty of the casino company to its employees.
Hot Topic of Debate
Attorney’s associated with the class action lawsuit have pointed out that it is ironic that Penn National charges the extra cash for smokers but they allow indoor smoking in some of their properties. In the venues located in Missouri and Kansas, people are allowed to smoke in the casino.
Part of the employment process is being around smoke. While this is not ingesting themselves, it does cause health problems too. Casinos in Missouri must have smoking and non-smoking sections within the venues. In Kansas, casinos can allow smoking throughout.
According to the CDC, those who do not smoke are still exposed to secondhand smoke when in such a work environment and this can cause a 25 to 30 percent increased risk of developing heart disease.
Because of potential issues with smoking in the workplace, the subject remains a hot topic among the casino community. There are anti-smoking groups trying to push for a full smoking ban, while casinos continue to back smoking.
The fight has been ongoing for many years and it doesn’t seem to be swaying to one side or the other. Legal action has been taken in some areas across the United States to try and stop smoking or at least limit it even more than it already is.
This type of lawsuit involving Penn National may be another point that could be used on either side of the argument. It will certainly be interesting to see how the case evolves and whether the casino company wins out or the employees.