Maryland’s central casino, Maryland Live!, may have used a dealer school to conceal an employee training program, according to three students of the school. Last week, those three students filed a potential class action lawsuit in federal court seeking compensation for their attendance at the school—Harbourt, et al. v. PPE Casino Resorts Maryland, LLC. The students are also asking to join all 831 fellow trainees as plaintiffs.
Generally, an employee must be paid for training time and meetings. Whether held during regular work hours or not, if attendance at a training or meeting is required and not voluntary, employees must be compensated for their time. Trainings and meetings are not considered voluntary if it is generally known, or the employee reasonably believes, that non-attendance will result in some negative effect on employment.
The students were told that the school, which was free to attend, was established through Anne Arundel Community College. Yet, according to the students, all course materials were produced by Maryland Live! and all of the instructors were casino employees. Additionally, students were required to complete W-2 forms and were subjected to criminal background checks. One student who did not pass the background check was disqualified from the school. The casino also allegedly set up a temporary human resource office next to the school in order to immediately hire all successful trainees.
The school was open for twelve weeks, and required students to attend classes four hours per day, five days per week. The students received no compensation for that time, except during the final two days of training, for which students received minimum wage for attendance.
For its part, Maryland Live! has strongly denied the allegations. Anne Arundel Community College was not named in the lawsuit, and has refused to comment.
The students are seeking damages for violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and Maryland Wage Payment Collection Act. As Maryland employers know all too well, the Wage Payment statute carries with it the potential for treble damages and attorney’s fees if the court finds that the employer improperly withheld wages not as part of a bona fide dispute. Multiply that by 831 uncompensated trainees, and Maryland Live! could be faced with paying damages in the millions.
For more information on employment law, contact the attorneys at Bowie & Jensen LLC.