Las Vegas Sun

August 4, 2020

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Culinary to sue Las Vegas casino companies over virus protections

Tourists Reflect on Coronavirus Concerns

Steve Marcus

Pedestrians are shown on the Las Vegas Strip Tuesday, June 16, 2020.

Las Vegas resorts that have partially reopened amid the global pandemic haven’t adequately protected employees and their families from the coronavirus, the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 allege in a lawsuit.

The union's announcement that it intends to file the suit on Monday comes after a report Friday about a union worker who died from COVID-19, which his family says he caught after returning to work following the state shutdown, according to KTNV-TV. 

“The Culinary Union is suing these companies for injunctive relief under the Labor-Management Relations Act based on the hazardous working conditions that workers face,” the union wrote in a statement, noting that the suit will focus on “the companies’ failure to properly warn workers, disinfect and quarantine when a worker or their co-worker tests positive for COVID-19.”

It wasn’t clear which companies or individuals will be named in the lawsuit. The union called a news conference for Monday to share additional details. The Culinary Union, which claims more than 60,000 of mostly hotel and casino workers, is “demanding safety for all hospitality and gaming workers in Nevada.” 

The union has demanded regular COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment for all employees, enforcement of social distancing guidelines, for resorts to publicly publish their mitigation plans, and for all resort guests to be required to wear masks.  

Mandatory mask wearing was implemented at 12:59 p.m. Thursday through a directive this week by Gov. Steve Sisolak as new coronavirus cases continue to stack up. 

Nevada testing has found at least 16,339 cases statewide, with the bulk of them, 13,174, reported in Clark County. Out of 500 deaths, 410 occurred here, including Adolfo Fernandez, a longtime Caesars Palace worker who died this week.

Widely available testing means an increase of positive COVID-19 cases, but the current infection rate, 6.2%, has been crawling upward each of the last 10 days. 

Speaking to KTLV-TV on Friday during a vigil, Fernandez’s daughter, Irma Fernandez, blamed his death on his return to work when resorts began to partially reopen on June 4 as part of Nevada’s Phase 2 recovery plan. 

“I have proof that he was negative before he stepped foot in that (property),” she told the TV news station. Caesars Entertainment didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment, but it told KTLV-TV that workers who'd possibly been exposed were being tested and asked to quarantine.