A lawsuit filed in 2020 against Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City and its owner, the Luxor Capital Group, by a company’s former general counsel and senior vice president for being illegally fired for whistleblowing will not go to trial after the defendants and the plaintiff agreed to a settlement.
Retaliation for Whistleblowing
Loretta Pickus filed the lawsuit claiming the termination of her employment was in direct violation of New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) which protects employees from possible retaliation actions from their employers in cases when they signal the authorities for a company’s activity, policy or practice that they believe to be breaching the law. The CEPA protects employees from having their contracts terminated, being demoted, or being passed up for promotion.
Pickus, a member of the Ocean Casino audit committee, objected to Ocean Casino management sending redacted information to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) following the committee’s meeting in July 2019.
During the meeting, the committee members addressed the hiring of Mark Evans as director of surveillance and his subsequent demotion for suspected deficiencies, as well as whether his role was permanent or temporary.
According to the lawsuit, Pickus was fired four days after complaining to then-CEO Terry Glebocki and the DGE that management had filed with the gaming regulator false meeting minutes in which the Evans topic was scrubbed, as insisted by another member, Fred DeVesa, to ensure less liability for the company.
Ocean Casino’s response to Pickus’ complaint was to terminate her contract stating that “the substance of her complaints and objections were allegedly not an issue,” yet “she should have been ‘softer’ and spoken ‘less harshly’ in delivering the statements to the audit committee.”
Friendship Decided Pickus’ Fate
Pickus’ complaint to the DGE prompted an investigation, but the lawsuit claimed the regulator’s director David Rebuck sided with Fred DeVesa’s version that Evans’ employment was on a temporary basis only as he and DeVesa are close friends.
Pickus’ lawyers went further by stating that their client was fired on instructions issued by Rebuck to Ocean and Luxor officials. The lawsuit claimed Rebuck allegedly told them that “there are people you shouldn’t have in your organization.”
“They are holdovers. They need to go. Call me later as I do not want to name them here,” Rebuck allegedly noted.
Ocean Casino’s filing to the New Jersey Superior Court on Tuesday stated that the two parties were “currently ironing out the complete settlement terms.”