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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
12-7-10

Former And Current Owners Of The Sahara Hotel To Pay $100,000 To Settle EEOC National Origin Harassment & Retaliation Suit

Slurs and Graffiti Plagued an Egyptian Worker, Who Was Suspended for Complaining, Federal Agency Charged

LAS VEGAS – The former and current owners of the Sahara Hotel & Casino, a popular establishment on the Las Vegas strip, will pay a total of $100,000 and furnish other relief to settle a national origin harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC originally filed suit against the former and current owners of Sahara in July 2009 in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada (EEOC v. Gordon Gaming dba Sahara Hotel and Casino, Stockbridge / SBE Holdings dba Sahara Hotel and Casino, Civil Action Case No. 2:09-cv-01356-PMP-RJJ) , alleging that the harassment and retaliation violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to the EEOC, the Sahara 's supervisors and coworkers continuously belittled and harassed Ezzat Elias, whose job entailed maintaining and delivering food to the hotel buffet, because of his Egyptian heritage. The alleged harassers openly and continually subjected Elias to derogatory comments, such as “Go back to Egypt,” “f-----g Egyptian,” and often referred to him as “Bin Laden.” Elias also endured graffiti in the men’s locker room and elsewhere, targeting him with phrases such as “sand n----r” and “the Taliban must die.”

Despite Elias’s repeated complaints of such harassment, the EEOC found that the Sahara’s management failed to take effective measures to stop it. Instead, the EEOC said, supervisors retaliated against Elias shortly after his initial complaint by increasing his workload, subjecting him to closer scrutiny, formally disciplining and ultimately suspending him.

The parties entered into a three-year consent decree which requires the Sahara’s former and current owners to collectively pay $85,000 in monetary relief to Elias. The hotel’s current owner will also pay an additional $15,000 to the Nevada Equal Rights Commission (NERC), the state entity charged with enforcing Nevada’s anti-discrimination laws, for the purposes of education and outreach to the public on anti-discrimination issues. Aside from the monetary relief, the current owner also agreed to appoint an equal employment opportunity (EEO) consultant and will review and revise its policies, training, and procedures to ensure they effectively address workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

“Under federal law, employees of all national origins are protected from this type of harassment,” said Anna Park, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “We commend the current owners of the Sahara Hotel & Casino for working with the EEOC to change the hostile work environment uncovered in this case.”

Lucy Orta, local director of the EEOC’s Las Vegas Local Office, added, “Retaliation is illegal and is one of the fastest-growing types of complaints received by the EEOC. Workers need to know that they have the right to report discrimination and harassment in the workplace without the fear of actions taken against them.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.