Nine executive security officers and a driver for Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson filed lawsuits Friday claiming violations of overtime law and other laws.
The suits were filed in federal court in Las Vegas by the Las Vegas law firm Campbell & Williams — the same firm representing fired Sands Macau executive Steven Jacobs in his lawsuit against Las Vegas Sands and Sands China Ltd.
One lawsuit was filed against Las Vegas Sands on behalf of Vincent Burlingame, Richard Carty, James Jackson, Christopher LaCascia, James Martin, Jonathan Molnar, Benjamin Ness, DeJuan Robinson and Michael Statkiewicz.
The suit described these plaintiffs as “executive protection agents” who provide or provided security services to Adelson, his wife and children on a 24-hour basis, including frequent air travel in the United States and around the world.
The lawsuit says these agents include a former Secret Service officer assigned to the White House, a former Defense Department security specialist responsible for the personal protection of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Ambassador Lawrence Butler (who focused on Iraq), several U.S. combat veterans and several former law enforcement officers.
The lawsuit claims Las Vegas Sands employed the agents routinely in excess of 40 hours per week and frequently for more than 150 hours per week.
“The defendants knowingly and willfully failed to pay the lawfully compelled legal overtime rate of one and one-half times the regular rate of pay at which plaintiffs were employed” in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the suit charges.
Zohar Lahav, vice president for executive protection for the company, was also named as a defendant.
The suit says Ness, a former Secret Service officer assigned to the White House who received overtime pay in that job, was well acquainted with the obligation of employers to pay overtime to qualified and eligible employees.
The suit says that when Ness confronted Lahav about this, Lahav angrily replied to the effect: “I don’t care what the law says! You work for me. I don’t pay overtime.”
Ness was eventually singled out, discriminated against and ultimately fired for his request for overtime, which the lawsuit alleged was unlawful retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
He was also fired for raising “concerns about the violation of other laws,” including Lahav’s insistence that Ness and others carry and transport firearms in violation of state law, that they transport a large bag of pharmaceutical drugs in foreign nations and that they operate an unregistered X-ray screening machine without appropriate health, safety and security safeguards, the suit alleges.
“Although Lahav stated that Ness was being fired for countermanding a policy directive, that was simply a pretext,” the suit charges.
“Ness was terminated because he raised serious questions regarding the violation of federal and state laws which the defendants in general — and Lahav in particular — viewed with disdain and contempt and he refused to engage in the requested illegal conduct,” the suit charges.
Ness was fired on March 8 and Burlingame and Carty were terminated in May, the lawsuit says. The other plaintiffs remain employed with Las Vegas Sands, the suit says.
A second lawsuit was filed on behalf of Kwame Luangisa against Adelson personally and one of his companies, Interface Operations LLC.
That suit says Luangisa was hired in July 2007 as Adelson’s personal driver and that he drove Adelson primarily in Las Vegas and Malibu, Calif.
He regularly worked seven days a week between 12 and 18 hours per day, but didn’t receive overtime because he was told he was a supervisory employee, the lawsuit says.
“Following a particularly abusive tirade by Adelson,” Luangisa resigned on March 25, and believes he’s owed more than $100,000, the lawsuit says.
The suits seek unspecified back pay and damages including — for Ness — punitive damages.
A request for comment about the suits was placed with Las Vegas Sands.