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Thursday, July 23, 2009 | 2:05 a.m.
A federal judge has dismissed a massive proposed class-action lawsuit against Station Casinos Inc. alleging current and former Station employees are owed wages for unpaid hours they claimed to have worked.
But within days of the dismissal, the proposed class-action lawsuit was refiled, this time in Clark County District Court.
In dismissing the lawsuit July 16, U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks cited a little-known jurisdictional rule for class-action lawsuits.
The rule is called the “home-state controversy exception” and says federal courts must decline jurisdiction in such cases when two-thirds or more of the members of the proposed class-action, and the primary defendants, are citizens of the state in which the lawsuit was filed.
In this case, filed in 2008, the jurisdiction issue came up in March, court records show. Lawyers for Station Casinos asserted the home-state controversy argument and prevailed.
That’s because of the 20,219 people on the list of potential class-action plaintiffs, 18,899 have a Nevada address.
In both the federal and state cases, the lead plaintiffs are former Station employees Josh Lukevich, Cathy Scott and Julie St. Cyr.
The state suit filed Tuesday seeks to represent all individuals who are or were employed by Station since Feb. 4, 2005. The properties named as defendants are Boulder Station, Fiesta Henderson, Fiesta Rancho, Gold Rush, Magic Star, Palace Station, Red Rock Resort, Santa Fe Station, Sunset Station, Texas Station, Wildfire and Wild Wild West.
The workers claim that because of its labor budgeting procedure, Station strictly allocated the number of hours that could be used to staff the various departments at its properties and that compensation of salaried managers was tied to complying with the labor budgets.
The lawsuit claims Station regularly rounded hourly employees’ starting and end times for each shift and failed to compensate them for all their work time and for overtime.
“Defendants’ practices ... are anti-competitive in that these illegal practices make one of defendants’ largest cost items — labor — lower than as compared to other casino owners/operators who are desirous of complying with the labor laws,” the new state lawsuit charges.
The workers complained they were required to work off the clock, that is before they clocked in or after they clocked out electronically using a “Kronos” timekeeping system. They also said the Kronos system rounded the time worked by between 7 minutes and 14 minutes.
A Station Casinos spokeswoman said Wednesday that the company would have no comment on the issue.
In the now-dismissed federal suit, Station denied wrongdoing and said wage disputes must be resolved by the Nevada Labor Commissioner, not the courts.
Its attorneys also said in court papers that Station did not permit the plaintiffs to perform the allegedly unpaid work or did not know of the unpaid work.
“Plaintiffs’ claims are barred to the extent they failed to substantially comply with all of the directions of his/her/their employer concerning the service on which he/she/they engaged,” the Station attorneys said in response to the federal complaint.
Nevertheless, Station attorneys later filed court papers showing they had engaged in mediation with the workers’ attorneys and that the parties established a phased discovery plan that was approved by the court with the goal of securing a class-wide settlement to be submitted to the court for review.
Because of the large number of current and former employees affected and the large number of workplaces at issue — 12 casinos or hotel-casinos — the parties had agreed to a discovery plan involving sampling so as to avoid having to deal with millions of documents covering thousands of workers over several years.
The plan involved studies or other analysis at two of the casinos regarding the rounding issue, the amount of time it takes to walk from time clocks to the hourly employees’ respective work stations and a determination of the start and end of the work day for hourly employees.