Six More Poker Massage Therapists Join Class Action Lawsuit Against INTU Corporation
There are new developments in the interesting class-action case pitting poker and casino massage therapists against their former employer, Las Vegas-based INTU Corporation. Among the developments present in a just-filed and amended complaint against INTU is an increase in the number of plaintiffs, from two to eight. Since the case was filed roughly three weeks ago on behalf of original plaintiffs Krystal Johnson and Shannon DeLelle, six more plaintiffs have joined the action.
The six new plaintiffs are Crystal Honeck, Dusty Dangerfield, Jennifer Wakuzawa-Kida, Sarah Pascoe, Elizabeth Spangler, and Shannon Thompson. As with Johnson and DeLelle, these six massage therapists were former third-party contractors who were scheduled to work at the World Poker Tour’s WTP Five Diamond Classic at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Those plans went awry when INTU suddenly lost its contract at the Bellagio just prior to the WPT event.
All eight of the former INTU-associated massage therapists were immediately rehired by another prominent Las Vegas massage therapy firm, Professional Massage, Inc. (PMI), which is familiar to many of our readers as the massage service available at the WSOP. All eight former therapists were barred from working at the Bellagio’s big poker event by the allegedly illegal invocation of a non-compete clause located within the third-party contracts signed by the therapists, as a mandatory condition of employment by INTU.
The Bellagio, under legal demand from INTU, was forced to block the eight — and perhaps more — from working at the WPT event, causing significant personal expense to some of them. Since then, and in light of the filing of the case, the Bellagio has reinstated the right of the plaintiffs to work at the casino if contracted by the new service, PMI.
INTU President Deanna Edwards Added as Defendant
The class action has added a second defendant, INTU founder and president Deanna Edwards, alleging that it was by Edwards’ direct hand that the illegal non-compete imposition was launched, perhaps as a vindictive measure against the Bellagio and rival service PMI as much as against the barred therapists themselves. Edwards maintains multiple residences, spending time in Las Vegas and Tennessee in addition to her native Mississippi.
The lawsuit also maintains, as a second primary point, that conditions imposed upon the contracted massage therapists by Edwards and INTU stretched far beyond the norms of third-party-contractor relationships, and that the plaintiffs were actual INTU employees who collectively are owed years of back wages, overtime, and other benefits.
The amended complaint also introduces additional evidence relevant to the various claims, including a 2013 threat of termination if contracted therapists accepted work with a rival company at the Wynn poker room, an expansion of INTU’s “vacation” and “time off” policies (highly unusual for supposed third-party contractors), and even a “points system” (incentive program) where the contractors were assessed penalty points and barred from certain incentives if they failed to meet certain hours-worked goals.
Expanded allegations detail suspect employment conditions
The expanded section of general allegations against INTU and Edwards offers new details and insight into INTU’s operations and alleged working terms. Included in the latest filing:
36. Specifically, on January 2, 2016, the Defendants notified all of their massage employees that INTU is implementing an incentive program where the individuals who log certain requisite numbers of hours will be eligible for gift card drawings, but cautioned that they will be disqualified from such drawings if they have “5 or more points accumulated during” the qualifying month.
37. The “points” system is itself further evidence of the Defendants’ treatment of their massage employees as genuine employees, with the massage employees being demerited in the form of “points” if they cannot make a scheduled shift, arrive late, or have to leave early (even if for medical reasons), and such points cumulatively inviting various degrees of discipline including employees being stripped of shifts and/or facing termination.
38. The employer/employee relationship is further evidenced by the “time off” protocol used by INTU; while employees are permitted to request certain times they wish to work in a given month, by indicating availability through a software interface, INTU has made clear that it maintains full control of scheduling, going so far as to note in an e-mail, dated March 1, 2012:
Hi Ladies, There is some confusion about the time off request policy. The policy is that you can request time off up to 6 month in advance. This means if know you are going on vacation in July you can send us an email and request the time off now. Since it is March we are only taking time off request through September. We understand that last minute trips and days off come up and those can still be included in your monthly schedule requests. This is to prevent all the therapists at one property taking the same day off and if you want to take a long vacation you will know sooner than later that it is approved.
39. The employer/employee relationship is further evidenced by the precise demands of INTU on its employees, as evidenced by written policies governing the use of cell phones during work hours, prohibiting employees from spending break time on the casino floor, prohibiting employees from congregating near slot machines during the break time, and dictating employees keep their “conversations with clients to a minimum.”
40. The employer/employee relationship is further evidenced by a strict uniform policy imposed by INTU on its employees, requiring them to purchase conforming company-branded clothing from INTU, dictating the colors of shoes employees are allowed to wear to work, dictating the style of pants employees are allowed to wear to work, and even dictating the degree to which a jacket may be unzipped so as to note the showing of any cleavage is impermissible.
Edwards Demanded Compliance with Non-Compete Clause
The amended complaint also references a memo sent from Edwards to the affected massage therapists, demanding compliance. The November 17, 2018 message implies that the ending of INTU’s contract with the Bellagio ended in late Novemeber, rather than in early December as conjectured in the initial complaint. This new passage details Edwards’ expectations that the out-of-work therapists would still be unable to work the Bellagio WPT event:
52. Upon information and belief, INTU took this action at the direction of Ms. Edwards, its owner, who has involved herself in the day-to-day operations of INTU at all times relevant, approved all operational decisions of INTU of any significance at all times relevant, maintained the personal relationships that gave rise to INTU’s contract with the Bellagio poker room, and personally e-mailed her employees making note of the Covenant Not to Compete and the demand of INTU and herself that the Covenant Not to Compete be treated with “compliance” by the various massage employees.
53. Specifically, on November 17, 2018, Ms. Edwards e-mailed each of the Plaintiffs, writing, inter alia, “We understand there may be apprehension regarding the signed non-compete agreement therapists have with Bellagio. Compliance is expected.”
Separately, Edwards and INTU sent the same non-compete legalese to the Bellagio, which led to the Bellagio’s temporary decision to bar the former INTU therapists from working the Five Diamond event.
Six Claims of Action Now Filed
Also expanded under the amended complaint are the actionable claims against INTU and Edwards. Now numbering six, these include:
- Violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- Intentional Interference with Contractual Relations
- Violation of the Anti-Retaliation Provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act
- Failure to Pay Overtime Wages/ Wages
- Failure to Pay Minimum Wages — Violation of the Nevada Constitution
- Declaratory Judgment
Prior to the filing of the amended complaint, INTU already had been granted an extension of time to respond, to January 14, 2019. This amended complaint will push that response time later, likely to a date in late January or early February. The case is filed in the US District Court for the District of Nevada.