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Sexual harassment lawsuit against Steve Wynn dismissed

Updated July 17, 2020 - 6:36 pm

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Wynn Resorts Ltd. from nine anonymous women who claim they were sexually harassed by former Wynn Resorts Ltd. CEO Steve Wynn.

The women alleged that the company knew about Wynn’s actions and tried to cover up the misconduct.

A Wednesday ruling from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada said the women failed to sufficiently defend their decision to use pseudonyms, and improperly used collective pleading instead of pleading individual acts.

Use of ‘Judy Doe’ not good enough

The women chose to be referred to as Judy Does in the lawsuit, and argued that the use of their real names could lead to retaliatory defamation suits by Steve Wynn, being ostracized at work or having their lives upended if the sensitive details of the case were made public.

The court sided with a federal magistrate judge who found the plaintiffs had not sufficiently pleaded their case to keep their names hidden, and said the women failed to convince the court that their privacy interests outweighed the public’s right of access to the judicial proceedings.

“Although plaintiffs wish to preserve their anonymity, this causes several deficiencies in their claims against the Wynn defendants,” said U.S. District Judge James Mahan in the ruling. “Throughout their complaint, plaintiffs use generalized and vague statements without individualized factual support for their allegations.”

Additionally, references to the women’s March 2018 formal charges of discrimination against Wynn with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — which had been referenced throughout the complaint — were deemed unable to be taken into consideration because the filings were not submitted to the court.

The court also sided with Wynn Resorts’ claim that the plaintiffs should have pleaded individual facts — a requirement in sexual harassment claims — instead of collective pleading.

“Though plaintiffs all allege sexual harassment by Steve Wynn, the individualized acts of sexual harassment … are separate transactions or occurrences that must be appropriately pled in order to comply with rule,” the ruling said.

The women have the ability to replead the lawsuit.

Denial by Steve Wynn

The court cases are tied to allegations that ultimately led to Steve Wynn’s departure from Wynn Resorts Ltd. in 2018.

Wynn, formerly chairman and CEO of the company, stepped down from those positions days after The Wall Street Journal published an explicit account of him demanding sexual favors from and assaulting female hotel employees. Steve Wynn denied every allegation, saying the stories were concocted by his former wife, Elaine Wynn, in connection with a divorce settlement. Elaine Wynn denied that.

Matt Maddox, one of the longest-serving executives at Wynn Resorts, replaced Steve Wynn as CEO. Maddox had risen through the company’s ranks, working in Macao, then as chief financial officer and finally as president.

Within a month of Steve Wynn’s resignation, he had sold his Wynn Resorts stock, and by May 2018, he moved out of a villa at the resort that had been his home.

After Steve Wynn’s departure, other sexual harassment allegations surfaced, all of which were denied by Steve Wynn.

Through 2018, Wynn Resorts moved to distance itself from Steve Wynn and the allegations against him.

Under Maddox, the company underwent a transformation of board membership and executive leadership changes that brought more women to top positions and new policies underscored an emphasis in rooting out sexual harassment.

The state fined the company a record $20 million and Wynn Resorts was the subject of three days of hearings over the company’s response to sexual harassment in Massachusetts, where the company was building the $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor. Massachusetts regulators fined the company $35 million and Maddox $500,000.

In late 2019, the Nevada Gaming Commission approved amendments to state gaming regulations placing new emphasis on sexual harassment and all forms of discrimination and putting licensees on notice that regulators would not tolerate any form of harassment.

Wynn Resorts shares were down 2.2 percent Friday, closing at $82.76.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter. Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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