Casino Dealer “Trainees” Who Attended A 12-Week “Dealer School” Are Not “Employees”

Randi Klein Hyatt
Randi Klein Hyatt

The US District Court for Maryland dismissed a complaint filed by three “trainees” of the Maryland Live! Casino’s 12-week “dealer school.” Harbourt v. PPE Casino Resorts Maryland, No. CCB-14-3211 (Apr. 21, 2015). The plaintiffs alleged that they attended the Casino’s complimentary 12-week “dealer school” training course for table games (only one of the three actually completed the course and was employed as a dealer at the Casino). Classes were held for four hours per day, five days per week. They claimed they were Casino employees and their attendance at the training constituted compensable work under state and federal law. Because the Casino did not pay the plaintiffs for the vast majority of the time they attended the training (the plaintiff who eventually worked for the Casino was paid the minimum wage for the final two days of the training), they sued to recover what they believed were unlawfully withheld wages.

Interestingly, the “dealer school” was established through a local community college, yet all course materials were produced by the Casino and all of the instructors were Casino employees. Additionally, the “students” were allegedly required to complete W-2 forms and undergo criminal background checks and drug tests. The Casino also allegedly set up a temporary human resources department adjacent to training classrooms.

The plaintiffs claimed attendance at the “dealer school” constituted compensable work because the Casino was the “primary beneficiary” of their attendance. They argued that the Casino needed to hire and train table games dealers, notwithstanding that it was not open and no “work” apart from the training was performed. Plaintiffs also urged that the training was too specific to the Casino’s operations to not constitute valuable general Casino work training.

Judge Catherine C. Blake did not agree with the plaintiffs. She ruled that the complaint did not support the claim that the Casino was the primary beneficiary under the standard set forth in the seminal case addressing whether trainees qualify as employees, Walling v. Portland Terminal Co., 330 U.S. 148 (1947). Judge Blake focused on Maryland’s extraordinary detailed gaming regulations, which vastly limit any casino-specific customization of training.

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