Atlantic City’s Ocean Casino Resort has reached a settlement with a former general counsel and senior vice president who claimed she was illegally fired for whistleblowing.
Loretta Pickus sued the casino and its owner, the Luxor Capital Group, in 2020. She claimed her employment was wrongfully terminated after she objected to casino management sending inaccurate information to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).
Pickus argued this was a direct violation of New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). CEPA protects employees from retaliation from employers when they blow the whistle on a company activity, policy, or practice that they reasonably believe to be against the law. Forms of retaliation include termination, demotion, or being passed up for promotion.
In a statement to Casino.org in September 2020, Pickus’ attorney, Kathryn McClure, said the decision to fire Pickus had been driven by retaliation “fueled by gender discrimination.” This had caused her client economic and emotional harm, as well as damaging her professional reputation.
But the case will not go to trial. In a filing to the New Jersey Superior court Tuesday, Ocean’s attorney Elizabeth Lorell said the two parties were “currently ironing out the complete settlement terms.”
Hiring and Firing
According to court documents, Pickus was fired four days after she complained about the filing of false meeting minutes of the Ocean Casino audit committee to the state gaming regulator.
The meeting, in July 2019, had addressed the hiring of a new director of surveillance, Mark Evans, who was subsequently demoted for “suspected deficiencies,” the lawsuit claimed.
But committee member Fred DeVesa wanted the discussion about the hiring and demotion of Evans, and whether the role had been permanent or temporary, to be scrubbed from the record. That way, there would be less liability for Ocean.
Pickus later complained to then-CEO Terry Glebocki and to the DGE.
“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 lawsuit read.
Rebuck Called Out
Pickus’ complaint triggered a DGE investigation. But she alleged that the regulator’s director, David Rebuck, accepted DeVesa’s version of events — that Evans was only hired on a temporary basis — because he was a “personal friend” of DeVesa’s.
She also claimed Rebuck instructed Ocean and Luxor officials to fire her.
“There are people you shouldn’t have in your organization. They are holdovers. They need to go,” Rebuck allegedly told officials. “Call me later as I do not want to name them here.”
A veteran of the Atlantic City gaming industry, Pickus worked for the casino in its previous incarnation, Revel. She was the only remaining member of the previous management.
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