Nevada regulation changes on sexual harassment reporting start March 1

Nevada regulation changes on sexual harassment reporting start March 1

  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
February 24, 2020 12:00 PM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
  • Other

Changes to Nevada’s gaming regulations that provide all employees with increased protection against workplace harassment and discrimination go into effect Sunday.

However, some gaming license holders and casino industry vendors may not realize that they have to comply with the new regulations, which require that businesses with 15 or more employees draft and institute written policies to deal with allegations of sexual harassment.

“The language applies to everybody,” said A.G. Burnett, a partner with the McDonald Carano law firm in Reno. “The larger companies have compliance programs and they have these policies in place. There are vendors and possibly restricted gaming license holders (15 or fewer slot machines) that might not realize they (also) have to comply with the regulation change.”

Burnett, a former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, said gaming license holders have to understand that procedures regarding investigations into any alleged incidents need to be in place.

The Nevada Gaming Commission adopted the changes to Regulation 5.250 in November to address sexual harassment.

Attorney A.G Burnett of McDonald Carano

McDonald Carano partner Laura Jacobsen, who specializes in employment law, said that, prior to the regulation change, major gaming companies had policies in place in compliance with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Nevada Equal Rights Commission on discrimination issues.

Jacobsen said the language covering the written policies for vendors and smaller companies “was vague.” She said the changes now require those written procedures be in place.

The policy adjustment was driven by the fallout surrounding the allegations against former Wynn Resorts Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn. A January 2018 article in the Wall Street Journal detailed years of alleged sexual harassment and sexual assault by Wynn against his company’s employees. Wynn resigned his positions and sold all his company stock less than a month later.

Under the regulation’s changes, licensed gaming establishments and other gaming-related businesses with 15 or more employees must adopt and implement written policies and procedures “prohibiting workplace discrimination or harassment of a person based on the person’s race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, or national original, including, without limitation, sexual harassment.”

The added language addressing workplace harassment and discrimination, which is subject to disciplinary action, took effect in November.

Other provisions pertaining to compliance review, reporting systems and written policies become effective March 1.

Burnett and Jacobsen said the concern is not so much with large companies, but that smaller businesses, especially vendors, might not realize they have to comply with the regulations.

Attorney Laura Jacobsen of McDonald Carano

“We’ve had a lot of questions from clients since the changes were made,” Burnett said.

In an emailed statement, Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan said the agency’s Tax and License Division “will confirm each applicable licensee’s compliance” with the regulation changes.

“Additionally, the compliance unit of the board’s Investigations Division will continue to monitor the compliance committees of such gaming licensees and evaluate whether their respective compliance plans adequately address the necessary policies and procedures required by Regulation 5.250,” Morgan said.

Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo told the Nevada Independent in November he considered the end product a reflection of the culture regulators want to see within the gaming industry.

How to deal with allegations of sexual harassment has been a regulatory concern since the Wynn matter surfaced. Wynn Resorts paid a $20 million fine last year to Nevada to settle a 10-count complaint that detailed years of failure by former company executives to “report and/or investigate” numerous allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct by Steve Wynn.

The company also outlined more than two dozen policy changes that were made to deal with reporting and investigating sexual harassment allegations.

Former Control Board Chairwoman Becky Harris pushed for policy changes to the state’s sexual harassment regulations. The board recommended the changes in November 2018, but they were never acted on by the Gaming Commission.

Alamo said the commission didn’t want to consider any regulatory changes while Nevada regulators were still contemplating disciplinary action against Steve Wynn.

“I see this with a different work product, and I took it for the value of what it is,” Alamo told the Nevada Independent in November. “I think it just encompasses more than, again, just titling it sexual harassment. It’s workplace harassment.”

Last October, the Control Board filed a complaint seeking to label Wynn “unsuitable to be associated with a gaming enterprise or the gaming industry as a whole.”

In December, the Gaming Commission said it had the authority and jurisdiction to rule on the suitability of Steve Wynn, but his attorney plans to seek a judicial review on the ruling.

Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.