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2 Thunder Valley Casino Resort employees resign in same week, citing lack of COVID-19 protocols, casino responds

After an ABC10 investigation into COVID-19 safety protocols at Thunder Valley Casino Resort, several more employees reached out, including two who decided to resign.

LINCOLN, Calif — After an ABC10 investigation earlier this week involving concerns made by employees at Thunder Valley Casino Resort about COVID-19 safety protocols, several more employees reached out to ABC10 to share their experience, including two who resigned this week from their positions. 

One employee resigned after 13 years with the casino and the other, a longtime employee, told ABC10 they did not feel they were protected. 

"There's a lack of safety concerns for guests, employees and myself," said Michelle Olsen, who worked at Thunder Valley Casino Resort for 13 years. "After speaking to my doctor and the health conditions that I have, I decided to make a decision that my health is more important and my family is more important, and I really don't want to catch this."

Olsen resigned from her position because she believes Thunder Valley has not done enough to protect her and other employees from possibly contracting COVID-19.

Olsen said employees aren't allowed to wear face shields, social distancing is not being enforced and some guests are choosing not to wear masks once inside.

"We have been provided only one mask that is required and citing that it's part of their uniform and forcing employees to launder them daily," she said. 

Another employee, who currently works at the casino and asked to remain anonymous, told ABC10 the same thing. For purposes of this story, she has been called employee No. 5.

"They gave us one mask - a cloth one they made - and that was on June 5, and I've had the same one ever since," employee No. 5 said. "I haven't received another one, and I have to take it home and wash it everyday. And, in fact, the first couple weeks we opened, I worked 19 out of 21 days." 

Thunder Valley Casino Resort spokesperson Doug Elmets told ABC10:

"Each team member is given a color coded mask with the Thunder Valley logo that matches the masks of the uniform of their particular department. Team members are allowed to wear a disposal [sic] mask under the Thunder Valley mask that matches their uniform if they wish. Team members can purchase masks that match their uniform for the same cost that the company purchases them which is around $8.00."

ABC10 learned someone filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) against the casino earlier this month.

Credit: ABC10
Letter from OSHA to Thunder Valley Casino Resort

In a letter asking Thunder Valley to respond by July 9, OSHA described the complaint as, "Adequate PPE not being provided when dealers interact with the general public."

Occupational Safety and Health AdministrationOakland Area Office1301 Clay StreetSuite 1080NOakland, CA 94612 Number 1614811, dated July 2, 2020 hazardous working conditions and/or violations within Thunder Valley Casino Resort(TVCR). Your letter asks that I conduct an investigation in regard to the allegations andprovide you, in writing, any findings and actions taken or to be taken, if applicable.Written response was requested by July 9, 2020.

Thunder Valley Casino Resort responded to OSHA on July 3 with a letter detailing their safety protocols, which included the Health and Safety Plan for Dealers.

After observing 80 dealers and 10 floor supervisors over multiple days, the response says, "all dealers and table games personnel that I observed were following all aspects of the TVCR Health and Safety Plan."

Thunder Valley Casino Resort also forwarded ABC10 the final reply from OSHA that read, "Your response was satisfactory and the complaint is closed."

Still, current and former employees tell ABC10 they believe some policies are concerning. 

"We are not allowed to wear gloves at the table or hand sanitizer at the table so it makes me very nervous," employee No. 5 said. 

A staff memo obtained by ABC10 read: "Dealers please do not put hand sanitizer on your own hands at the table. It is fading the cards and making them sticky." 

Thunder Valley Spokesperson Doug Elmets told ABC10, "Bottles of hand sanitizer are on each of the table games. Dealers are encouraged to sanitize their hands prior to dealing but are asked to let the sanitizer dry prior to dealing the cards to prevent the cards from sticking together and causing an issue with the shuffle machines."

Elmets also said, "When cards stick together the shuffle machines are unable to account for the total number of cards, causing the shuffle machines to 'red light.' When the red light illuminates, this is an indication that there is an issue that requires further investigation before continuing to deal the game. This was occurring on multiple occasions, thus the recommendation to let the sanitizer dry before the dealer begins dealing the cards."

Credit: Thunder Valley Casino Resort
Table Games Operations Thunder Valley Casino Resort

"I don't necessarily think they opened too early but I do think they did not think it through," employee No. 5 said. 

Thunder Valley Casino resort gave its employees full pay, benefits and tips while the casino was closed from late March through early June.

RELATED:

Thunder Valley Casino Resort closing due to coronavirus leaving employees with temporary pay, benefits

Thunder Valley workers say casino should not be open with current coronavirus protocols

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WATCH ALSO: Workers at Thunder Valley say casino should not be open with current coronavirus protocols

Thunder Valley Casino employees shared a memo with ABC10 that tells dealers to not use hand sanitizer at the table because it makes the cards sticky.