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Judge: Women must ID themselves in Wynn harassment lawsuit

Updated August 13, 2022 - 8:45 am

The nine anonymous women who have filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Wynn Resorts Ltd. will have to identify themselves for the suit to proceed, a U.S. magistrate judge has ruled.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach on Tuesday issued an order denying the women, who refer to themselves as “Judy Does Nos. 1-9,” to proceed anonymously until U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro considers a motion from Wynn Resorts to dismiss the case.

The women continue to work at the Wynn Salon or Encore Salon as manicurists or makeup artists, and each has made specific allegations regarding sexual harassment by former Wynn CEO Steve Wynn.

Steve Wynn has repeatedly said he has never harassed or sexually assaulted anyone.

But in court filings, the women gave graphic descriptions of how Steve Wynn asked overly personal questions of a sexual nature, forced them to massage him near his genital area, and required them to provide services to him in secluded areas, including his office.

The women chose to be referred to as Judy Does in the lawsuit and argued that using their real names could lead to retaliatory defamation lawsuits by Steve Wynn, being ostracized at work or having their lives upended if sensitive details of the case were made public.

Attorneys for the women have until Aug. 23 to object to the ruling, and one attorney for the women said Friday that they would.

U.S. District Judge James Mahan initially heard the case filed in March 2019, a year after Steve Wynn left Wynn Resorts following sexual harassment allegations made public in a January 2018 Wall Street Journal article.

Steve Wynn resigned as chairman and CEO of the company in February 2018 and divested himself from the company in the months following his departure.

In July 2020, Mahan said the women’s pleadings were too vague, and the case went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The appellate ruling, argued in October 2021, said the District Court action was in part affirmed but in part reversed. As a result, the case was remanded back to District Court where it was reassigned to Navarro.

In its ruling, the appellate court said the Judy Does “repeatedly expressed a willingness to provide more information, so long as their privacy could be assured.”

The court added that “while the Judy Does had no automatic right to file an amended complaint, the District Court still should have granted leave to amend when dismissing claims that could be cured with additional facts.”

The remanded decision was referred to Ferenbach, who said “since I order that the Judy Does may not proceed under fictitious names on the public docket, I deny their proposed protective order that conceals their identity from Steve Wynn and others as moot.”

Seeking to protect identities

Kathleen England, managing attorney of the Gilbert & England Law Firm’s Las Vegas office, who specializes in representing victims of discrimination and sexual violence, said she’ll continue to try to keep plaintiff’s names anonymous.

“We will be filing an objection because we will continue to seek to protect the identities for reasons that we believe are legitimate,” she said.

While Ferenbach’s ruling referenced allegations against Steve Wynn, England clarified that the action is against Wynn Resorts, which is alleged to have failed to properly investigate reported misconduct by Steve Wynn.

The Nevada Gaming Commission fined Wynn Resorts $20 million in 2019 for failing to investigate claims of sexual misconduct made against Steve Wynn before he resigned. Separately, in 2020, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission fined the company $35 million and the company’s top executive at the time, then-CEO Matt Maddox, $500,000 for failing to disclose sexual misconduct allegations against Wynn when it applied for a license for Encore Boston Harbor in Everett.

Following Steve Wynn’s 2018 departure from the company, Wynn Resorts, with new board members including three women, has since established new anti-harassment policies for the company.

Attorneys for Wynn Resorts and company officials on Friday did not respond to requests for comment on the new developments in the case.

Efforts to get comments from Steve Wynn on Friday were unsuccessful.

A representative for Steve Wynn did not respond to an inquiry and in the past has said he doesn’t want to be contacted by reporters because he is a private citizen.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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