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Exclusive Vegas country club settles state race bias case

July 30, 2019

LAS VEGAS (AP) — An exclusive Las Vegas country club settled a race bias complaint with the Nevada state Equal Rights Commission, hours before a rare public hearing Tuesday about a former club tennis instructor’s claim she was wrongly fired in 2016 after an influential club member commented about her biracial children.

Red Rock Country Club admitted no wrongdoing, Carmel-Mary Hill did not get her job back and no money changed hands under terms of an agreement reached late Monday. The agreement was approved unanimously by commissioners during the previously scheduled public hearing, commission administrator Kara Jenkins said.

The club agreed to provide “discrimination training” to staff, draft a new employee manual for approval by the commission, and return for a compliance hearing before the five-member panel in November. Jenkins said failure to meet requirements could lead to breach of contract lawsuit in state court.

Stephanie Mazzei, the attorney representing the club, did not immediately respond later to messages.

In the settlement, the club disputed “some of the factual allegations” as “inaccurate and/or incomplete” but acknowledged that the agreement made them a matter of public record.

Hill worked as a tennis instructor at the club for 16 months before she was fired in September 2016 by a manager who told her that her daughters, ages 5 and 3, had been “unruly” and that Hill violated company policy.

The dismissal came after Hill brought her daughters to a professional tennis tournament at the club, where the complaint said “a wealthy and longtime Caucasian member” was alleged to have complained to managers after asking “whose black kids” they were. The member was not publicly identified.

Hill’s attorney, F. Travis Buchanan, said the club member simply “didn’t like seeing black kids on the premises.”

“It’s 2019,” Buchanan said. “I would like to say it’s unbelievable to see instances of blatant discrimination. We’re not going to let it become normalized.”

The gated country club in the Summerlin area of northwest Las Vegas has luxury homes surrounding two Arnold Palmer championship golf courses, a third public course, a clubhouse, restaurant, sports, swimming, spa and banquet facilities. Its website offers “a privileged few a lifestyle unparalleled in Las Vegas” for initiation fees up to $10,000 and memberships ranging from $195 to $930 per month.

A public hearing before the state Equal Rights Commission is unusual. Most cases end in settlements. Sanctions beyond a public airing of the complaint can include a cease-and-desist order and a report to the governor.

Jenkins said the last hearing, in August 2017, involved sexual harassment allegations against the operator of two Fat Tuesday bar locations in Las Vegas.

That case ended with a settlement that admitted no wrongdoing, banned an owner of a company from day-to-day operations and required new workplace policies and sexual harassment awareness training.

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