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EEOC sues Rocky Gap, alleges illegal retaliation

Bartender complained of sexual harassment

A female bartender at Rocky Gap Casino Resort told management of being sexually harassed by a male colleague but was ignored and later reassigned to a less-trafficked bar, leaving her with no choice but to quit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged in a lawsuit filed this week.

EEOC claimed Lisa Payton’s reassignment by Rocky Gap in retaliation for her complaint of inappropriate touching and comments from the fellow bartender violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination.

“Federal law requires employers to address sexual harassment complaints promptly and appropriately, especially when the harassment includes physical assault,” Debra M. Lawrence, EEOC’s regional attorney, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

“Retaliation by transferring a worker because she complained only makes the situation worse,” Lawrence added. “In this case, the harm was further magnified because the retaliation led to a drastic pay cut that compelled the worker to leave the job.”

Las Vegas, Nevada-based Golden Entertainment Inc., which owns Rocky Gap, issued a statement Wednesday saying it “categorically denies these allegations and will vigorously defend the matter.”

“The company has robust policies, procedures and training in place throughout the organization, including Rocky Gap Casino Resort, to address any and all employee concerns,” the statement read. “Golden Entertainment is committed to providing a safe and equitable environment for its team members and has no further comment on this matter.”

According to EEOC’s complaint, the male bartender’s harassment of Payton began shortly after they started working together at the Flintstone resort in May 2017. The harassment allegedly included sexual comments and groping of Payton’s buttocks.

Payton complained to her supervisors, but they continued to assign the pair to work together. When the alleged harassment continued, Payton reported the behavior to the human resources department in July 2017, EEOC stated.

She was subsequently reassigned “to work at a bar that was less lucrative in earnings potential” while the harasser was permitted to stay at Payton’s former workstation, EEOC alleged.

The resort “refused to allow Payton to return to her earlier and more lucrative assignment, even on nights when (the harasser) did not work,” the commission added.

Payton’s approximately 60% reduction in income compelled her to quit her job in September 2017 for other employment, EEOC said, adding that such a forced decision is not a voluntary resignation by the employee but a “constructive termination” by the employer.

In its complaint, EEOC said it seeks a jury trial and awards to Payton for back pay and past and future financial loss attributable to the resort’s illegal actions as well as compensation for her emotional anguish. The agency also seeks punitive damages for what it called Rocky Gap’s “callous indifference to her federally protected right to be free from sex-based harassment and from retaliation for engaging in activities protected by Title VII.”

The case is docketed in U.S. District Court as U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Golden Entertainment Inc., trading as Rocky Gap Casino Resort, No. 1:20-cv-02811-CCB.

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