Kyla Asbury Oct. 21, 2014, 10:43am

BALTIMORE (Legal Newsline) - Employees are suing PPE Casino Resorts Maryland LLC for failing to pay them minimum wage during a 12-week training course that they say was disguised as a school and not a work-training program.

The matter stems from a scheme devised by the defendant to avoid paying the plaintiffs and others their wages owed, according to a complaint filed Oct. 14 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

Claudia Harbourt, Michael Lukoski and Ursula Pocknett claim on Nov. 6, 2012, the passing of Question 7 by the Maryland Legislature caused the expansion of gambling in Maryland by legalizing the operation of table games.

"This meant the potential for new jobs for Maryland residents," the complaint states. "What this meant for defendant was the urgent need to train and hire table game dealers."

Without trained table game dealers, Maryland Live! could not begin to generate revenues from the table games that were already constructed for their casino, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs claim executives of Maryland Live! knew it needed to move quickly if it was going to have table games operating by the spring of 2013, and the defendant did not have dealers for the approximately 150 live table games set up at their casino. Approximately 831 dealer positions needed to be filled immediately in order for Maryland Live! to begin operating table games, they claim.

The plaintiffs claim PPE advertised that a training school was held in conjunction with Anne Arundel Community College, and it was advertised that the school was for the purpose of providing qualified applicants with the skills necessary to embark on a career at Maryland Live!

However, the training program was run out of Marley Station Mall, and students had no contact with professors or any other staff from AACC. All classes were taught by Maryland Live! employees, according to the suit.

"These instructors wore Maryland Live! uniforms and all course materials were authored by Maryland Live!" the complaint states. "Maryland Live! even set up a temporary human resources office next to the training program in the strip mall to assist the trainees with their applications for their gaming license."

The plaintiffs claim the sole purpose of PPE's temporary makeshift "school" was to hire the exact number of dealers needed to fill the vacant table game positions at Maryland Live! and once the training program was complete, it was never offered again.

"Making the training course as a school did not relieve defendant of its legal obligation to pay the minimum wage," the complaint states.

The defendant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Maryland Wage and Hour Law and the Maryland Wage Payment Collection Act by failing to pay the plaintiffs the federal minimum wage, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs are seeking class certification and compensatory damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. They are represented by Benjamin L. Davis III and Steven M. Lubar of the Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl.

The case is assigned to District Judge Catherine C. Blake.

U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland case number: 1:14-cv-03211

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