MGM Employees Test Positive for Coronavirus, Some Operations Shuttered

Posted on: March 14, 2020, 10:15h. 

Last updated on: March 16, 2020, 09:39h.

“Several” MGM Resorts International workers have tested positive for COVID-19, as the company announces it will close select operations, such as Ohio’s MGM Northfield Park, the gaming giant notified employees Friday night.

In the same correspondence, workers were abruptly told about layoffs and furloughs, which apparently follow lower occupancy rates.

MGM Resorts President and COO Bill Hornbuckle notified workers Friday about layoffs, closings, furloughs and company employees testing positive for coronavirus. (Image: MassLive)

Among the casinos and other venues where employees are likely to have coronavirus are the Luxor Hotel & Casino and the Wet Republic dayclub at the MGM Grand. Workers who came into close contact with ill colleagues will be asked to self-quarantine.

We are now learning that several of our employees have tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus, and we expect that there will be more in the coming days,” MGM Resorts President and COO Bill Hornbuckle warned in the letter.

“Co-workers and those individuals who have had close prolonged contact have been notified,” the letter adds. “We are working with the health district to address these cases as quickly as we can.”

MGM further asks that all corporate employees who can work from home do so starting next week, Hornbuckle said. “If you are feeling ill, please stay home and consider using our telemedicine options.”

Nightclubs, Day Clubs, Spas, Salons, Restaurants, Bars Impacted

MGM has also revealed it is closing nightclubs and day clubs. Spas and salons will close starting on Monday. Some 150 food and beverage venues will close on a rolling basis.

The letter also informed workers that furloughs and layoffs will commence next week. The layoffs impact front desk workers at The Mirage to bellmen and cocktail servers at Bellagio to housekeeping staff at New York-New York, the Las Review-Journal reported, based on statements from unnamed sources.

Specific numbers of workers impacted by the move were not immediately known Saturday.

“This is a challenging time and it has been an especially difficult week,” Hornbuckle said. He asked that MGM workers keep likely coronavirus infected employees “and their families in your thoughts and prayers.

“As the nation grapples with the effort to contain the coronavirus, the travel industry has been challenged, and our company is no different. Business demand has decreased significantly.”

“We are working diligently to minimize the impact on our employees through furloughs and layoffs, which will begin next week. We will continue to pay our Flexible Time Off (FTO) eligible employees on furlough for two weeks and our hourly employees can use all available Paid Time Off (PTO) in their bank. We’ve also made the decision to maintain existing employees’ benefits, for individuals who are on our health plans and impacted by the layoffs or furloughs through June 30th.”

“These decisions are never made lightly, and we deeply regret the hardship it will place on these individuals and their families,” the letter adds.

Culinary Union Asks for Paid Leave, Health Benefits

Earlier this week, the Culinary Union asked multiple Las Vegas casinos for paid leave and other benefits, given the coronavirus outbreak.

Among the requests made by the union are five paid sick days and no attendance points or discipline to any worker who calls out sick or who is in quarantine.

Also, the union wants workers to get paid leave, including wages and health benefits, if a worker needs to self-quarantine or care for a family member who is in quarantine.

It also wants up to six months of paid leave benefits for workers in the event of a layoff.

The union additionally requested more training and supplies for workers to prevent the spread of coronavirus. It also wants to see enhanced cleaning standards for all areas of casinos.

It’s kind of a necessary move on the union’s part,” Ruben Garcia, co-director of the UNLV Workplace Law Program, told about the union requests, in an interview just hours before MGM announced the layoffs and closings, and released news about the infected workers.

He points out that the casino sector is a “little bit under strain,” given the economic impact from the coronavirus outbreak. It reminds him of economic conditions in Las Vegas after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks or during the financial hardships in 2008 and 2009.

Garcia called them “very recent memories” and predicts that coronavirus could lead to a “similar impact.”

The union made concessions after those economic downturns. But workers were able to get back those benefits, Garcia said.

“It’s clear from the Culinary Union statement, they understand their fortunes are tied to the casinos doing well and having business,” Garcia added.

The health-related demands from the union will likely be “popular” with the general public and “make sense,” given that they will help prevent sick employees from working, Garcia confirmed. MGM, like other casino companies, has already increased its cleaning efforts at casinos.

House Passes Bipartisan Bill

Early Saturday, the House of Representatives passed a national coronavirus relief bill by a 363-40 vote after President Donald Trump backed the measure.

H.R. 6201 next heads to the Senate. It calls for paid emergency leave for workers and free tests for COVID-19.

Also, the legislation allows for two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave. It also adds federal funding for Medicaid. Last week, Congress approved an $8.3 billion coronavirus relief bill.

In response to governmental and other efforts, MGM’s Bill Hornbuckle said in his letter to employees, “We are actively engaging with our industry colleagues, trade associations, and federal delegation on legislation being considered by the federal government to provide financial relief for America’s workers and businesses.”

Trump and government leaders have been meeting with corporate CEOs and business associations to work out tax relief and emergency loans for corporations, Politico reported. Airlines and the cruise industry may be among the sectors to be aided. The hospitality sector could also be given support from the government, Politico reported.

Administration officials do not see it as a “bailout,” but more of an aid package.