Ocean Casino Announces Settlement With Whistleblower

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Whistleblower Loretta Pickus has won a settlement from the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City after she was fired in 2020. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Ex-Ocean Casino exec gets deal

The Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City has informed a state court in New Jersey that it has reached a tentative settlement over the firing of its ex-general counsel, Loretta Pickus.

currently ironing out the complete settlement terms.”

According to Law360, the casino’s lawyer, Elizabeth Lorell of Gordon & Rees LLP, informed Superior Court Judge Stanley L. Bergman Jr. about the settlement in a letter Tuesday. It said that “the parties are currently ironing out the complete settlement terms.”

Pickus, the former senior vice president of Ocean Casino Resort, filed a whistleblower and discrimination lawsuit against the New Jersey casino in September 2020. The plaintiff alleges the casino fired her in January 2020 for objecting to the submission of false meeting minutes to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE).

A wrongful dismissal

Pickus’ struggle against Ocean Casino, according to the complaint, stemmed from the 2019 appointment of Mark Evans as the casino’s director of surveillance. Ultimately, the casino demoted Evans for “suspected deficiencies” in his role, replacing him with a new director.

In a July 18 Ocean Casino audit committee meeting, one month after Evans’ replacement, committee member Fred DeVesa “indicated that he did not want a record reflecting the hiring and demotion of Evans because there would be less legal liability for the company,” said the complaint.

requested a correction regarding the minutes

Pickus, who was present at the July 18 meeting, said she raised the issue about the false minutes to the NJDGE and Terry Glebocki, then CEO of the casino. In a January committee meeting the following year, she requested a correction regarding the minutes of the meeting and urged the committee to take responsibility for the false submission. The casino fired her four days later.

“The company told Pickus that the substance of her complaints and objections were allegedly not at issue, but that the company was terminating her employment because she should have been ‘softer’ and spoken ‘less harshly’ in delivering the statements to the audit committee,” the complaint said.

Payback for whistleblowing

As reported by Law360, Pickus sought partial summary judgment as to Ocean Casino’s whistleblower liability under New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). In a December 16 motion brief, she described her situation as “a rare case where direct evidence of retaliation is available.”

According to a New Jersey employment law firm, CEPA essentially “protects employees from retaliation such as being fired, demoted, passed up for a promotion, or harassed because they objected to something that they reasonably believed violated the law.”

The plaintiff cited an affidavit statement in August made by Glebocki. According to the brief, Glebocki said Pickus “‘was terminated for cause based on her unsatisfactory performance and unbecoming conduct at an audit committee meeting in January 2020.”

Pickus said Glebocki’s statement was direct evidence that the defendants — Ocean Casino and its owner, hedge fund Luxor Capital Group LP — retaliated against her whistleblowing.

Either way, it seems Pickus has now won her legal battle with Ocean Casino through the confirmed settlement.