MGM Springfield Sacked Diversity Chief Levies Lawsuit Against Casino, Ex-Boss
MGM Springfield tasked Chelan Brown with ensuring that the construction workforce hired to build the $960 million integrated resort was diverse and satisfied state requirements. The casino opened in August 2018.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) gave each of its two full-scale casinos — MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor — ambitious diversity hiring goals. During construction, the MGC said each casino should strive to contract at least 10% of the overall construction work with women-owned businesses. At least 2% of the vendor contracts were additionally to go to veteran-owned entities.
Upon opening, the MGC said minorities and women should account for at least half of MGM Springfield’s total workforce. The numbers reported by MGM Resorts to the MGC during construction and the casino’s opening outpaced those minimums. But Brown claims many of those statistics weren’t accurate.
In a lawsuit naming MGM Springfield and the property’s former president, Michael Mathis, as defendants, Brown alleges that she was forced to fudge the casino’s diversity numbers. When she eventually refused to further relay fabricated numbers, Brown alleges she was demoted to a lesser position with longer hours and less pay, which eventually resulted in her termination.
MGM Resorts and the MGC both acknowledged Brown’s lawsuit, but said the organizations had no immediate public comment.
Brown is seeking financial damages for allegedly being racially discriminated against and retaliated against by MGM management, breach of conduct, failure to deliver on promises of employment, and attempts to force an employee to submit fraudulent documents.
Brown, who has since gone on to work with Behavioral Health Network, a Springfield-based health care provider, as its “vice president of social justice,” says she was repeatedly harassed by Mathis while the two worked at MGM Springfield. Mathis stepped down from his position in January 2020, just two months after Brown was fired.
Brown alleges in her legal complaint that Mathis forced her to overstate employment statistics for many of the contractors MGM Springfield hired during construction. When she told Mathis she didn’t feel comfortable reporting the diversity metrics to the MGC, “President Mathis stated angrily that he would present the numbers to the MGC and ordered the team to ‘report the numbers this way,’ meaning inaccurately,” Brown’s lawsuit asserts.
Brown claims Mathis retaliated against her by demoting her to a conference services position, an area in which she had no prior experience. She took the job anyway, as it was the only option afforded to her after Mathis said she wouldn’t be retained as diversity manager. The conference services role came with a pay package that was 6.34% less than her diversity management role.
Booze-Filled Late Nights
Brown’s lawsuit also alleges that she was forced to routinely attend corporate events where Mathis and other MGM executives overconsumed alcohol.
On one such occasion, President Mathis was so intoxicated that he was unable to sign the bar bill for his corporate credit card while seeking Ms. Brown’s help in doing so. On this same evening, Ms. Brown witnessed Mr. Mathis engaging in overly flirty and inappropriate behavior toward several female workers, which made Ms. Brown uncomfortable,” the lawsuit alleges.
Brown concluded that Mathis and other MGM leaders ran the Springfield resort not unlike a college fraternity.
“In her role with MGM, Ms. Brown got to know both MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis and [then-MGM Resorts CEO] James Murren. Ms. Brown was featured by both of them as a success and used as an example of MGM’s diversity initiatives and achievements.
“As time went on, however, the senior levels of the organization began acting like they were in charge of a fraternity house and not a responsible organization,” Brown’s attorneys concluded.
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