Casino Workers Sue Great Canadian Gaming
A number of former employees at Great Canadian Gaming Corporation’s (GCGC) Casino Nanaimo in British Columbia have filed class action lawsuits in response to what they believe is wrongful dismissal. A total of 27 staff members individually initiated legal action against GCGC in October 2020, while a further three filed lawsuits in April 2021, this time on behalf of all former Casino Nanaimo employees. The casino closed its doors on 16 March 2020, due to the global health crisis, leaving workers high and dry.
Samantha Heffel, Kimberly Bussiere and Catherine Fanning filed class action lawsuits in April this year on behalf of all Casino Nanaimo staff, alleging that GCGC have tried to force employees to accept buyouts as severance pay and, prior to that, withheld banked vacation payments. Additionally, according to former employees, GCGC also terminated benefits without even attempting to communicate with them regarding whether or not they would have a job to return to.
Apart from this, the former employees have stated that in July 2020, four months after the casino’s closure, some workers who would usually receive tips were given envelopes of cash – out of the trunk of a casino manager’s car.
Regarding the buyout, it is alleged that employees were forced to accept the equivalent of the Employment Standards Act (ESA) of one week of salary per year of service up to eight weeks pay. This was to be considered severance pay and as such would deprive them of employment insurance. On August 30 last year the government declared temporary layoff to be permanent, and former casino employees have stated that GCGC did not recognize terminations under the ESA.
Former staff members of the casino have said that the wrongful dismissals are “reprehensible”, as they are bringing already struggling workers to their knees. The claims seek aggravated and punitive damages.
GCGC is no stranger to controversy: in January of this year Rodney Baker, president and CEO of the company, tendered his resignation after he and his wife Ekaterina Baker were caught travelling to Yukon in an attempt to get vaccinated by posing as local motel workers.
In 2015 it was suggested that GCGC’s Richmond River Rock Casino was involved in money laundering after they did not report suspiciously large transactions – up to six-figure worth of CA$20 bills.
The most recent lawsuits are just the latest in a string of disputes concerning GCGC and its casinos.