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Tachi Palace employees say they fear for their health
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Tachi Palace employees say they fear for their health

LEMOORE — Tachi Palace Casino Resort reopened on May 28 after a nearly 10-week closure due to COVID-19. Now, some employees are alleging the casino is not taking their health seriously.

According to several employees who spoke to Sentinel on the condition of anonymity, Tachi Palace Casino Resort is currently experiencing multiple cases of COVID-19.

One employee, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of losing their job, said Tachi Palace has told their employees not to say anything if they have the coronavirus.

“There are numerous cases of [COVID-19] at the casino that have not been disclosed to the public nor the other employees,” the employee said. “There is no social distancing. There are no rules being enforced.”

Another employee, also wishing to remain anonymous for the same reason, said Santa Rosa Rancheria and Tachi Palace are “infected with coronavirus.”

“Employees are afraid to say anything in fear of being fired,” the employee said. “So they come to work sick and hide behind their mask. [They’re] making employees come back to work before they receive their results from their test.”

The employee also said, “I’m afraid and don’t feel well. And we need help.”

Another employee, who also wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from Tachi Palace, went into greater depth detailing a ‘hectic’ work culture. During their shift, they said two supervisors have tested positive and three other employees have as well.

“I think they were trying to do what they had to do to hurry up and open,” the employee said. “I don’t think they fully thought stuff through about, ‘OK, if people do test positive, what are we going to do about that?’ They didn’t have a clear procedure.”

The employee said that Tachi Palace promised to pay its employees if they tested positive for COVID-19, but never told them that in order to qualify for the payments they had to be tested at the casino’s site and then apply for disability. Instead, workers have been using their vacation time and sick days to continue to get paid, they said.

“It’s just frustrating all the way around,” the employee said. “You don’t know what to do. You can’t really say anything. Everybody is kind of stuck and it’s not like people can just say, ‘Well, I can’t work anymore’ because they still have bills to pay.”

Due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Tachi Palace can’t tell employees who has tested positive, but they’ll advise employees to get tested for COVID-19 after being near a person who was positive.

Since there’s no information to go around, the employee said the associates have taken it upon themselves to constantly communicate between each other to find out who has COVID-19 and to try and remain as safe as possible.

“We have to figure out between each other to know what’s happening because we’re not being told stuff,” the employee said.

The Hanford Sentinel reached out to Tachi Palace seeking comment and General Manager Michael Olujic sent a statement via email. In the statement, Olujic reiterated that safety is the “top priority” for their employees and guests.

He referenced the changes Tachi Palace made after closing in March, including infrared monitoring of temperature at all entrances and personal hand sanitizer for each associate.

“Each team member is required to wear a mask for their safety and the safety of our guests,” Olujic said. “Associates who interact with guests, also have the option to wear protective glasses or face shields.”

He added that employees were given the option to return from their furloughs or not, if they weren’t comfortable.

“Our COVID safe workforce procedures included pre-screening of our associates before returning,” Olujic said. “Once they were cleared from the screen test, each one attended an onboarding safety training, which included educating them on COVID Procedures.”

The email also stated that if an employee shows signs of a fever, they are excused from work until they have been cleared, and the casino has policies in place if a team member states that they have come in contact with someone who has COVID-19. Olujic did not elaborate what those policies are.

“Because we want to offer a comfortable environment where both our team members and guests are safe, we have gone above and beyond the minimum requirements and are committed to continuing to do so,” Olujic said.

Noe Garcia can be reached at (559) 583-2431 or Follow Noe on Twitter at @noecarlosgarcia.

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