Resorts World New York City Buffet Lawsuit Ongoing Nine Years After Restaurant Closed
Resorts World New York City officials made the decision to close the property’s Aqueduct Buffet in January 2014. More than nine years later, some employees who worked at the eatery continue to make their legal case that they were wrongly terminated without warning.
A three-judge panel in the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals this week ruled 2-1 in favor of allowing a proposed class action lawsuit to continue against Resorts World New York City and its Malaysia-based parent, Genting. The two judges in the majority determined that the 177 employees who lost their jobs through the buffet closing might have a case in accusing Genting and Resorts World NYC of violating federal and state laws when it laid off the restaurant’s staff.
The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires that large employers provide workers with a 60-day notice when a significant change to the company’s overall workforce is forthcoming. A similar New York law lengthens the minimum time for the heads-up to 90 days.
Casino officials at the time of the buffet’s closing said the restaurant consistently lost money. The buffet opened with the casino in October 2011.
Aqueduct Buffet workers said they were told of the restaurant’s closing the same day it ceased operation. Dozens of buffet workers subsequently united to sue the casino on WARN violations.
The case has experienced considerable delays for a variety of reasons, with one being the pandemic.
In March 2021, US District Judge Leo Glasser in the Eastern District of New York sided with the casino in its claims that the 177 layoffs did not require a WARN filing because the restaurant’s closing did not significantly reduce the property’s overall staffing numbers. The casino said the layoffs represented less than 10% of its staff in Queens.
Glasser’s opinion dismissed the lawsuit, but the 2nd Circuit agreed to hear its appeal. In the court’s 37-page judgment published Monday, Circuit Judges Denny Chin and Jon Newman concluded that the class action lawsuit has merit.
Chin and Newman said that, after consulting with the US Department of Labor, a federal WARN Act notice likely should have been filed.
Genting says the Aqueduct Buffet was not a single unit or separate entity of the casino itself. The company tried to back that claim by pointing out that many of the buffet workers also regularly worked in other casino restaurants. The Buffet, Genting’s legal defense added, was centrally located inside the main “Times Square Casino” floor overlooking the racetrack.
Buffet workers contended that since they wore a different uniform than other casino employees and that since the restaurant had its own entrance, the eatery should be considered an individual entity and a separate employment site.
The federal WARN Act requires employers with more than 100 workers to file a notice when they plan to lay off 500 or more workers (not counting part-time employees) at a single site of employment — or plan to lay off a minimum of 33% of its active workforce at a single site of employment — in a 30-day period.
Chin and Newman found that Resorts World New York City might have been required to file a federal WARN notice.
We conclude the district court erred in granting summary judgment for Genting and in dismissing Plaintiffs’ claims under the WARN Act,” the judges wrote.
The case, officially Roberts v. Genting, has since been remanded for further proceedings.
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