Sexual harassment regulation uncertain for Nevada gaming industry

With the #MeToo movement raising awareness about workplace sexual harassment, one might think adding more language to existing state gaming regulations to help prevent sexual harassment would be a slam-dunk no-brainer.

But that’s not necessarily the case.

On May 3, the state Gaming Control Board hosted its first workshop meeting on a proposed 2½-page amendment to the state’s Regulation 5, a series of guidelines for the operation of gaming establishments and businesses.

Reg 5 spells out some do’s and don’ts of operation and also displays the hammer regulators have for those that fail to abide: the ability to fine a company or suspend or revoke a gaming license.

At the Control Board’s harassment workshop session, labor and employment attorney Jen Sarafina of the Kamer Zucker Abbott law firm in Las Vegas questioned the need to add to a gaming regulation, calling the discussion “a knee-jerk response to media coverage of allegations that have not been tested or proven by any court or agency.”

Among the reasons not to add those guidelines is that they already exist, as the federal U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Nevada Equal Rights Commission have regulations in place governing sexual harassment in the workplace.

Sarafina suggested the bigger problem is employees aren’t aware of how to report a situation when it occurs, which is precisely what the proposed gaming regulation addresses: making sure that sexual harassment prevention measures are in place and that Control Board officials can investigate when needed.

The workshop lasted a little over an hour. Control Board Chairwoman Becky Harris said afterward that she thought it might run longer given public reaction to allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Steve Wynn, the founder and former chairman of Wynn Resorts Ltd.

Wynn is no longer associated with the company, which has taken enormous strides to distance itself from its founder.

Harris said she plans to schedule another workshop in Carson City, noting that perceptions and viewpoints on harassment might differ between rural and urban settings.

It’s still up in the air whether the three-member Control Board would vote to forward a recommendation to the Gaming Commission to act on the proposed amendment. Board member Terry Johnson indicated he might consider other avenues to bring the same result.

Even if the Control Board votes to forward a recommendation, the five-member commission doesn’t necessarily have to take it up.

Interestingly, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s last two regulatory appointments in gaming have been women: Harris as chair of the board and Sandra Douglass Morgan, who was appointed to the commission this month. Morgan, who replaced Randolph Townsend, joins Reno resident Deborah Fuetsch as women on the commission.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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