The Lodge Casino at Blackhawk paid an additional $225,000 in order to settle claims alleging discrimination and retaliation in violation of the American with Disabilities Act, commonly known as the ADA. Two executives of the Lodge previously paid $60,000 last February in order to resolve the claims brought against them individually for their role in the discrimination and retaliation.
The lawsuit was brought by two former employees, Pat Bruno and Tom Gish. According to Bruno and Gish, the events leading to the lawsuit began when Gish, an experienced waiter with an excellent reputation, applied for a job at the Lodge Casino. He was hired by Bruno, who headed the Casino’s Food and Beverage Operation, but was promptly discriminated against because of his HIV+ status by the Lodge and its upper executives. HIV and AIDS are specifically not included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list of infectious and communicable diseases that are transmitted through the handling of food.
According to the allegations in the lawsuit, a top executive of the Lodge called Gish a leper and insisted that The Lodge find a way to “get rid of him.” Bruno, who was Manager of Food and Beverage at the Casino, and who had hired Gish, alleged that the Lodge’s Vice President of Gaming Operations flew into a tirade, spewing profanities and berating Bruno for hiring Gish. The decision to try to prevent Gish from being employed as a waiter at the White Buffalo Room, the Casino’s upscale gourmet steak house, apparently was approved by Black Hawk Gaming’s President Steve Roark and Vice President of Investor Relations Stan Politano. Allegedly, Bruno, a long term employee of the Lodge Casino at Black Hawk, tried to stand up for the rights of Gish, and ended up paying for it with his job and his health. Both Bruno and Gish allege that they were constructively discharged by the Lodge Casino in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and state common law.
The Lodge and two top executives have collectively paid a total of $285,000 in exchange for Bruno and Gish’s agreement to drop the case.
According to attorney Darold Killmer, a partner of the Denver civil rights law firm of Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, “We are very pleased with the outcome of this case. This substantial settlement sends a strong message to would-be discriminators that such behavior is simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Discrimination doesn’t pay.”
Despite requests by Bruno and Gish’s attorneys, the Lodge has refused to make commitments to train its employees regarding issues of diversity and discrimination, as well as HIV awareness and safety. According to attorney Mari Newman, also a partner at Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, “The Casino should learn its lesson, having paid out nearly $300,000 in these cases. Its refusal to commit to training its employees on issues of discrimination and HIV awareness is a sad reminder that bigotry is not easy to erase.”
The Lodge Casino is owned by Blackhawk Gaming & Development Co., Inc., which also owns the Gilpin Hotel & Casino in Blackhawk and the Gold Dust Casino in Reno Nevada. Blackhawk Gaming is owned by Jacobs Entertainment, headed by Jeffrey Jacobs of Cleveland, Ohio, a real estate developer with gaming interests around the country.