Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in North Carolina is facing allegations that it wrongly fired a table game dealer. That’s after the individual voiced concerns about the property’s emergency evacuation procedures.
Trey Peterson is a disabled US military veteran who was working as a casino dealer at Harrah’s Cherokee in early 2021. On Feb. 7, 2021, a piercing alarm went off inside the casino that spurred flashbacks to his military days.
But Peterson’s complaint wasn’t about the intensity of the alarm, but the manner in which the casino’s management responded. Peterson claims that workers and guests were told to shelter in place despite most seeking to exit the building.
I felt helpless because my supervisor was refusing to allow me and my co-workers to evacuate,” Peterson told Fox 46 in Charlotte.
Peterson’s wife also worked at the casino at the time as a server. He said when his wife approached him, she was in a panic trying to round him and others up to evacuate the premises. An electrical malfunction was later cited for the alarm. No one was physically hurt.
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino is one of two tribal casinos in North Carolina owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and operated by Caesars Entertainment. The Harrah’s Cherokee casino floor is equipped with 3,000 slot machines, 160 table games, and a Caesars Sportsbook.
Harrah’s Cherokee River Valley Casino is the smaller of the two Cherokee casinos in North Carolina. Cherokee River Valley features 1,000 slots, 70 tables, and a Caesars Sportsbook. River Valley is amid a $275 million expansion that will add about 400 slots, 12 tables, and a 10-table World Series of Poker Room.
Peterson contends that in today’s world, it’s best to exit a building amid an emergency — not shelter in place.
“We live in a world of acts of terrorism, active shooter bomb threats, you don’t know,” Peterson stressed. “To be sitting helplessly not being allowed to evacuate, with someone else in control of your life, it’s extremely uncomfortable and scary.”
Peterson says he was let go from his job soon after levying a complaint to casino management about its emergency policies. The military vet said ongoing construction projects rendered certain exits inaccessible. He later filed a grievance with the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
In its review of Harrah’s Cherokee’s emergency response protocols in the wake of Peterson’s complaint, OSHA cited the tribal casino for evacuation hazards. But Peterson says he was ultimately terminated for sounding his own alarms.
OSHA can only address employee safety. I have concerns for employee safety but guest safety as well,” Peterson detailed. “Whistleblowers shouldn’t have to fear retaliation for speaking up and doing the right thing. They should be rewarded.”
Instead of being rewarded, Peterson claims he was fired. The repercussion allegedly extended to his wife, who was also let go.
No Lawsuit Yet
Peterson explained that he hasn’t filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the casino. But he has retained an attorney.
Peterson insists his goal is not financial compensation, but a safer environment for workers and patrons. He also revealed that he would gladly take his job back if offered, so long as Harrah’s is willing to rethink its emergency evacuation procedures.
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