Casino Executives Named in Iowa Harassment Lawsuit

July 25, 2013

A former employee at an Iowa casino is accusing its general manager of making inappropriate sexual comments to employees and patrons.

Gail Wilson, a former guest services manager at Lakeside Casino in Osceola, filed a lawsuit alleging that she was fired in November 2011 after speaking up about some of the incidents.

Wilson also alleges that the casino’s human resources manager gave favorable treatment to subordinates she slept with, according to the Des Moines Register.

Wilson, a Native American, alleges that General Manager Bob Thursby cracked jokes about prostitutes, once told a patron he didn’t recognize her with her clothes on, and made comments such as, “You tell that Indian that if she doesn’t do it, I will send her back to the damn reservation.”

Both Thursby and Carol Eckels, the casino’s human resources manager, denied all of the allegations in a legal response to Wilson’s lawsuit.

Wilson’s lawsuit alleges race discrimination, sexual harassment, sex discrimination and retaliation in violation of Iowa’s Civil Rights Act. A jury trial in the case has been set for March 3 in Osceola.

In one instance cited in the lawsuit, Thursby is alleged to have said in reference to Eckels: “I don’t know why she is still sticking around here because I don’t remember her (performing a sex act).”

The lawsuit alleges that Wilson began receiving disciplinary actions after she confronted Eckels. Wilson said the discipline against her started when she told Eckels that favoring employees based on sexual relationships was wrong and unlawful.

Both Thursby and Eckels are still employed at the casino. Phone messages were left for both.

Casino attorney Jill Jensen-Welch of Des Moines declined to comment, saying she generally does not speak publicly about ongoing litigation. The lawsuit also names the casino as a defendant.

Thursby, 66, has worked at the Osceola casino for four years. The facility last year had nearly 685,000 visitors and more than $50 million in revenue, state records show.

In a partial deposition of Thursby that was obtained by The Des Moines Register, he testified that at least one of the comments cited in the lawsuit was a misunderstanding.

Specifically, he said that he didn’t tell the patron that he didn’t recognize her with clothes on, but that he “didn’t recognize her with those clothes on.”

The patron lodged a complaint, and her husband or boyfriend spoke with Thursby about his remark, according to the deposition.

“She misunderstood what I said,” Thursby testified in the June 4 deposition. “I thought – I had mistaken her for a woman who worked for us as a pit clerk on the boat. Very, very striking resemblance between the two.”

Wilson, through attorney Frank Harty of Des Moines, declined to comment.

Topics Lawsuits Iowa

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