A proposed $6 million settlement fund for 3,125 past and present hourly employees of Wind Creek Bethlehem Casino has the initial approval of a federal judge sitting in Philadelphia’s US District Court.
The Montgomery Advertiser first reported the preliminary settlement of the class-action suit. The full court history of the case is available. A former casino dealer filed suit in March 2020. He was no longer employed there by then.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama are the owners of the Pennsylvania casino, though the dealer began working at the facility under previous ownership. A message seeking comment from tribal spokesperson Miriam Fry went unanswered.
Tip credits and license cost deductions at issue in Wind Creek suit
At issue was if the casino, formerly known as the Sands, had provided proper notification about tip credits to those workers making less than minimum wage. Also in question was Wind Creek’s deduction of the cost of gaming licenses from employee earnings.
Settlement of the tips issue would cost about $2,088 per entitled person. About $102 would go to each person covered by the licensing issue. About a third of those who sued are within both categories.
Wind Creek mum
A spokeswoman for Wind Creek, Julia Corwin, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Weisburg Cummings, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania law firm that represented plaintiffs in the suit, declined comment.
Wind Creek Bethlehem has denied any wrongdoing. The settlement proposal says the tribe agreed to the compensation fund to avoid further litigation.
The final settlement comes on Sept. 8 before U.S. District Court Judge Joseph F. Leeson Jr.
Nothing currently before PGCB
Doug Harbach of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board said nothing about this matter is currently before PGCB from the Office of Enforcement Counsel.
The agreement does not apply to gaming facilities owned by the Poarch Band elsewhere.
The Native Americans bought the former Sands property for $1.3 billion in May of 2019. The time period covered in the settlement proposal began before the tribe’s purchase.
The Bethlehem property has more than 3,000 slot machines, 200 table games, accommodations, and an array of restaurants. The original owner was the late Sheldon Adelson‘s Las Vegas Sand’s Corporation.
The tribe said after buying the property, it intended to invest $340 million to expand the property. That work is ongoing.
Background of the case against Wind Creek
Under federal law, employers can pay employees less than minimum wage if an employee makes enough tips to make up the difference. The difference is called a tip credit.
Jacob Bartakovits, a former table games dealer at the Bethlehem property who made $4.25 an hour plus tips, sued Wind Creek Bethlehem in March a year ago. He worked there from August 2018 to October 2019. The current minimum wage in PA is $7.25 an hour.
The former dealer claimed the property did not inform employees of federal provisions regarding tips.
That included “the additional amount by which the wages of the tipped employee are increased on account of the tip credit claimed by Defendant, which amount may not exceed the value of the tips actually received the employee.”
The suit also claimed that the casino deducted the cost of a gaming license fee, a requirement to work at the casino, from workers’ wages.