The Las Vegas nightclub scene boasts good times for patrons and big profits for management, but a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court threatens to disrupt the party for powerhouse local operator the Light Group.
It all sounds like a scene from an R-rated reality series: rampant sexual harassment, drug use on the property, assault, battery, creating a hostile work environment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, attempted workplace intimidation — even a defendant nicknamed “Moose Diesel.”
The allegations contained in the lawsuit promise to rock Light Group management, which, according to the filing by Campbell &Williams, has a tawdry history to live down.
Light Group is owned by Andrew Sasson, Andy Masi and the Morgans Hotel Group. None of the owners is listed as a defendant in the complaint. The company vice president of entertainment, Mustafa Abdi, also known as “Moose Diesel” according to the lawsuit, is the only individual named as a defendant.
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Donald Campbell on behalf of a Jane Doe client, who says she fears an invasion of privacy and retaliation, alleges she was the victim of sexual harassment after applying for a job as a table hostess at Light Nightclub at Mandalay Bay hotel-casino in January 2013.
According to the complaint, during her job interview, the woman expressed concerns about the company’s “reputation for widespread sexual harassment and mistreatment of female employees,” but “she was assured that Light Nightclub would be different due to the involvement of MGM and Cirque du Soleil.”
From the start of her employment, she was told by managers to drink on the job and “socialize with high-level employees including Sasson and Abdi while working at Light Nightclub and outside of the workplace.”
Where Abdi was concerned, according to the lawsuit, the socializing degraded into a series of boorish attempts by Mr. Moose to force the plaintiff into kissing him and touching his genital area. Multiple examples are listed in the lawsuit.
Attorneys for the defendants haven’t yet made their official response, but it’s clear the plaintiff’s attorneys aren’t going to be shy about raising the issue of the company’s reputation and track record.
“Light Group has a longstanding and well-known reputation in the Las Vegas nightclub industry as a hotbed of sexual harassment, discrimination, and mistreatment of its female employees,” the lawsuit snarls, adding that the company’s owners were similarly sued in 2011. The allegations leveled by a previous employee, the lawsuit contends, “only served to reinforce the sleazy reputation of Light Group, its owners, and managerial employees in the Las Vegas nightclub industry.”
Talk about a jab in the nose.
Light Group attorney Scott Mahoney said in a statement: “We do not comment on pending litigation as a matter of policy. We do take seriously allegations of this sort by all current and former employees.”
The cloud hanging over this lawsuit is bigger than one plaintiff’s complaint against a nightclub company. That company does business with MGM Resorts, a casino corporation with a Nevada gaming license to protect.
Although MGM isn’t named as a defendant, the lawsuit notes that the company was involved in the hiring of the plaintiff, but “it eventually became clear that neither MGM nor (club partner) Cirque du Soleil had any substantial involvement in the day-to-day operations of Light Nightclub.”
If the bells aren’t going off at the state Gaming Control Board, they ought to be. It figures to have some investigative work to do on this one.
For now, business continues to boom in the local nightclub industry. The Light Group shares in a big part of that success.
Whether it is a part of the future of the Las Vegas club scene may depend on how well it defends this lawsuit.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (702) 383-0295.