Former employee sues nightclub operator over alleged harassment

A second former female employee at the Nine Group in Las Vegas is suing the nightclub and restaurant operator, charging that under the prior management she lost her job after complaining of sexual harassment there.

Attorneys for Michelle Garcia, who now lives in Los Angeles County, filed suit Tuesday in federal court in Las Vegas against Nine Group LLC, related companies including N-M Ventures, and against one of her supervisors, Raul Daniels.

The suit says Garcia worked at the Nine Group in the Palms hotel-casino as special events coordinator and that Daniels, who she said was national sales manager, displayed sexually suggestive and offensive signs and posters in his cubicle, which were visible to other employees.

Daniels also subjected her to unwanted sexual language and touched her inappropriately, Garcia's suit alleges.

The Nine Group's human resources director, Staci Haskins, "visited the Palms workplace and would joke with the managers there, including Raul Daniels, about the sexually suggestive language and signs. But there was never a time that those signs were removed, covered up or taken from the workplace,'' the lawsuit alleges.

Because the human resources director knew of these issues for months and allowed them to continue, and other supervisors knew of the harassment but didn't stop it, Garcia initially didn't know who she could talk to, the suit says.

She finally filed a complaint with HR in April 2009, the suit says.

"As she feared, nothing changed,'' the suit says.

"Ultimately, the harassment became so pervasive that it was affecting plaintiff's health. She had no choice but to end her employment'' and was "constructively discharged'' in May 2009, the lawsuit says.

The suit alleges violations of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and corresponding state law.

It claims Garcia was discriminated against on the basis of sex because the defendants subjected her to harassment and failed to take action to prevent and correct this treatment.

The suit accuses the Nine Group of negligent hiring, training and supervision and seeks unspecified general and punitive damages.

A spokesman for the Palms, an investor in the clubs and restaurants managed by the Nine Group, said the company doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Tuesday's suit was filed by Las Vegas attorneys David Tanner and Andre Lagomarsino.

Lagomarsino earlier represented a former Nine Group employee, Leslie Culler, in a sexual harassment suit claiming she was fired after rejecting sexual advances by supervisors under the prior management. That suit was settled in February under undisclosed terms.

The Nine Group, also known as the N9NE Group, for years was managed by restaurateur Michael Morton. Earlier this year, Morton sold his interest in the Nine Group as he settled acrimonious litigation pitting him against Palms owner George Maloof Jr. and disgruntled Nine Group investors.

Morton in that litigation was accused of mismanagement, in part because of hefty legal fees and potential damages N-M Ventures faced in the Culler case — as well as a 2007 workplace discrimination lawsuit filed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that was settled for $460,000 in favor of black and Hispanic security guards.

Attorneys for Morton denied the mismanagement allegation, saying he had made a fortune for Maloof and the investors, and Morton's attorneys separately denied the allegations of sexual harassment leveled against him personally by Culler.

Affiliates of the Greenspun family, owner of the Las Vegas Sun, are minority investors in the Palms.

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