Las Vegas Sun

July 17, 2018

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Casino executive wins $2.49 million jury award from Las Vegas Hilton

A jury has ordered Park Place Entertainment Corp.'s Las Vegas Hilton hotel-casino to pay $2.49 million to a former executive after determining the hotel-casino wrongfully fired her and left her stranded in Singapore.

Mui Chong, now known as Mui Rothwell, a former Las Vegas Hilton marketing executive, sued the hotel-casino in Clark County District Court in September 1999, alleging the Hilton violated her contract by firing her without cause on March 15, 1999.

Court documents provided by Daniel Marks, Chong's attorney, show a jury last week awarded Chong $594,146 in wages due under her contract, $600,000 for the Hilton's breach of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, $600,000 for intentional infliction of emotional distress and an additional $700,000 in punitive damages.

Court records weren't available for independent inspection Thursday and Park Place declined comment on he case.

Marks, who said she was hired to work for four years at the Hilton's Singapore office at an annual salary of $230,000, said she was wrongfully terminated for what the Hilton called gross negligence.

When she refused to sign a release, the Hilton allegedly refused to pay for or process her return out of Singapore to Las Vegas, Marks said. He said she was stranded in Singapore after the expiration of her work permit and took about six weeks to return to Las Vegas.

"There are several reasons why she won such a large judgment," Marks said. "She was a high-level executive with a huge salary and suffered emotional and financial distress because she made a major life change for the company and wasn't compensated for it. Her husband had to quit his job as a Hilton room service captain and he couldn't find a job in Singapore. She had to sell her possessions twice, once in the U.S. and in Singapore."

"Her homes in the U.S. were left vacant and could not be rented for a few months because she had to leave within two or three weeks of her promotion. She went back to the U.S. in a worse financial shape than when she left," Marks said.

"And she was in a Catch-22 situation. She was told she has overstayed in Singapore and could be arrested but she couldn't leave because she had to pay taxes first," Marks said.

The Hilton also refused to release Chong from a non-compete covenant that prohibited her from being hired anywhere in the United States and Australia where the Hilton had a casino, he said.

In court exhibits provided by Marks, Kirk Godby, a former Hilton vice president of international operations, in a March 8, 1999 letter to Chong, accused her of being "grossly negligent in the performance of (her) duties based on (her) continuing failure to generate an appropriate level of business, including the failure to produce a single customer during 1999."

But Marks disagreed. "There were (high-roller) arrival reports that showed Hilton didn't give Chong credit for bringing in customers in 1999, but had credited her boss, Roger de Lima, executive vice president of the Singapore office."

"Our main issue is that she was still bringing in customers despite the economic downturn in Asia and civil war in Indonesia, which impeded the ability to generate customers for the Las Vegas market, and that shows there wasn't gross negligence," he said.