Casinos sued by workers

Harrah’s Entertainment and Wynn Las Vegas have been sued over their refusal to protect workers from secondhand smoke.

The Harrah’s suit was filed in July by Caesar’s dealer Tomo Stephens, who said she was forced to quit her job after pre-cancerous cells were found in her stomach. Caesar’s is a Harrah property.

Last week, Wynn Las Vegas employee Kanie Kastroll filed the suit against the casino and its parent company, Wynn Resorts Ltd. She seeks class action status on behalf of other workers. The filing contrasts Wynn’s conduct with that of other casinos that have taken steps to protect their employees.

In May, Caesars was one of three casinos that was the subject of a report on secondhand smoke in casinos by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (“Protect your workers,” RN&R, May 15). The study found increases in the level of a tobacco-specific pulmonary carcinogen in casino workers’ urine over the course of a shift. The agency recommended that casinos institute bans on smoking.

Last week, the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C., reported the results of a review of studies of second hand smoke. The review included “published and unpublished data and testimony on the relationship between secondhand smoke and short-term and long-term heart problems. Eleven key studies that evaluated the effects of smoking bans on heart attack rates informed the committee’s conclusions about the positive effects of smoke-free policies. The studies calculated that reductions in the incidence of heart attacks range from 6 percent to 47 percent.”

At this year’s Nevada Legislature, casino lobbyists tried to get legislators to water down the state’s voter-approved restrictions on secondhand smoke, though exceptions for casinos were included in the law. Lobbyists said their clients had suffered business reverses since the enactment of the restrictions. (The National Bureau of Economic Research dates the start of the recession at December 2007, so nearly all businesses were experiencing reverses during that period.) The bill passed when it was combined with anti-stalking measures.

Labor unions have not been active on the issue of secondhand smoke.