Steve Wynn Defamation Case Against Former Hairstylist Thrown Out of Court
Posted on: September 4, 2020, 10:53h.
Last updated on: September 4, 2020, 11:49h.
A former Wynn Resorts hairstylist has successfully defeated a defamation suit brought against him by his former boss, the disgraced casino mogul Steve Wynn.
Jorgen Nielsen, originally from Denmark, was the artistic director of the salon at the Wynn Las Vegas and later the Encore up until 2013. He was one of two people who went on the record in the now-infamous Wall Street Journal article of January 2018 that accused Wynn of chronic sexual misconduct against female employees, although the newspaper claimed to have heard from “dozens” of former staff members who spoke anonymously.
Nielsen is quoted as saying in the article that “Everybody was petrified.” And when he and other salon employees told management about Wynn’s alleged behavior, “Nobody was there to help us.”
The allegations led to Wynn’s resignation as chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, and, later, the divestiture of his company stock for over $2 billion, although he continues to deny all the allegations against him.
In April 2018, Wynn sued Nielsen for defamation, claiming, “In falsely accusing Mr. Wynn of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era, Defendant Nielsen acted with the unlawful purpose of smearing Mr. Wynn and creating workplace issues for Mr. Wynn.”
Nielsen attempted to have the case dismissed by filing an anti-SLAPP motion, which failed. A SLAPP, or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, is a case which the plaintiff does not necessarily expect to win, but files in a bid to silence, intimidate or censor critics.
But on Tuesday, the Nevada Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision and upheld the anti-SLAPP motion.
Neilsen’s communication to national media “made in direct connection with an issue of public interest in a public forum” and was made “without knowledge of its falsehood,” Justice Mark Gibbons wrote in the court’s order.
Separately, Nielsen is suing Wynn Resorts and several of its top executives, alleging that they engaged in a surveillance operation against him in 2018 – a case still pending.
In April 2019, Wynn’s former VP of corporate security, James Stern, told a hearing of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) that he had tailed former employees, including Nielsen, on behalf of his billionaire boss.
The MGC eventually fined Wynn Resorts a record $20 million for its failure to adequately investigate sexual misconduct claims against Wynn, although it was allowed to retain its license in Massachusetts.
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