|By Steve Green, Las Vegas
SunMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 22, 2011--While a lawsuit over the pooling of casino dealers' tips winds its way through Nevada's court system, another casino tip lawsuit has emerged in California.
A state judge this month ruled Wynn Resorts Ltd. can't include managers in the dealers' tip pools at its Wynn and Encore resorts on the Las Vegas Strip -- and the case appears destined for review by the Nevada Supreme Court.
Subsidiaries of Caesars Entertainment Corp. of Las Vegas, in the meantime, were sued Oct. 19 in a California tribal court by a dealer at an Indian-owned casino complaining she and others hadn't kept all the tips they earned, among other things.
The dealer at the Caesars-managed Harrah's Rincon Casino and Resort near San Diego is seeking class-action status in the complaint filed in The Intertribal Court of Southern California, which serves 11 member tribes.
In the suit, Patricia Micallef claims she and others were harmed when Caesars' subsidiary Harrah's Operating Co. "failed to pay tip gratuities to its employees as required by California law," failed to provide meal periods for dealers and to pay them compensation for work without meal periods; and failed to provide accurate wage statements.
A Harrah's Rincon spokeswoman on Tuesday said the company's policy is to not comment on litigation.
Harrah's Rincon has some 1,990 slot machines, 70 table games and 660 hotel rooms.
The lawsuit says the proposed class of plaintiffs would total about 1,000 people who -- within three years of the filing of the suit -- were dealers or received tip distributions from Harrah's Rincon.
The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and statutory damages, penalties and restitution.
Micallef is represented in the lawsuit by the law firm Qualls & Workman LLP in San Francisco, which is experienced in class actions over wages and expenses.
Attorney Daniel Qualls said Tuesday it appears this is the first class-action wage complaint to be filed in a tribal court in California.
Qualls declined to say why he filed suit in the tribal forum as opposed to state or federal court.
"I'm confident the Intertribal Court has jurisdiction over this case," he said.
Qualls declined to elaborate on the allegations in the lawsuit.
But Micallef, in an interview, said the tip issue doesn't involve supervisors sharing in tips, because that's not the policy at Harrah's Rincon.
Rather, she said, the casino encourages employees to perform community service work and rewards them with paid time off.
The payment of the PTO includes minimum wage money provided by the company plus money from the dealers' tip pool, she said.
Micallef said that system is unfair as dealers who can't participate in community service are seeing their tips diverted to dealers earning the PTO.
The casino has some 350 to 375 dealers affected by the policy, she said, adding she didn't know if the same policy exists for other tip earners, such as bartenders and food and beverage servers.
The meal break issue relates to the casino providing dealers with breaks that aren't long enough for them to eat, she said.
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