Mohegan Sun employees rankled by changes in time-off policy

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Mohegan — Longtime Mohegan Sun employees reportedly scrambled to use accrued vacation time late last week after learning the casino was implementing changes in its personal time off policy, which took effect Monday.

Hundreds of employees “called out” Friday, Saturday and Sunday, according to several employees who asked not to be identified.

“Call outs are part of our business ... they happen every day,” Ray Pineault, Mohegan Sun’s president and general manager, said Wednesday. “Over the weekend, all our table games, our restaurants, our slots were operating. We handled what occurred.”

In a newsletter disseminated last Thursday, casino management outlined “Exciting Changes Coming” for employees and highlighted the Mohegan Tribe’s partnership with the Yale New Haven Health System, which will provide health care for tribal members, employees and their families. Changes in the “Personal Time Off” policy and the lack of end-of-year bonuses also were announced, as was an increase of at least 3 percent in the maximum wage range for positions at every level.

“Finally, as many of you know, due to a number of factors, not the least of which was a less than friendly Table Games hold for the year, we fell significantly short of meeting our budget profit goals for fiscal year 2019,” the newsletter says. “Unfortunately because of that, we cannot celebrate with a bonus distribution as we have over the past few years.”

Table-games dealers who communicated with The Day also complained that Mohegan Sun management has made changes that have reduced their “toke,” or tip, rates and rolled back the company’s contribution to employee retirement accounts.

Competition from Massachusetts casinos — MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor — has cut into Mohegan Sun’s gaming revenues.

Under the new paid time off policy, long-term employees with several weeks’ worth of accrued vacation time faced the prospect of losing the time as well as the option to instead “cash out,” employees said. In some cases, employees had accrued time that was worth thousands of dollars. Recognizing that some employees had saved up PTO hours, the casino granted all full-timers with at least a year of service an additional week of vacation time in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

Pineault acknowledged that employees in the past had been allowed to cash out unused time “in an emergency.” He said management was replacing that option with a new system for granting employees emergency financial assistance. He emphasized that employees’ compensation had not been reduced.

“I can’t predict the future, but we have no planned layoffs at this time,” he added.

He estimated that 200 to 250 employees have attended a series of three “town hall” meetings to discuss the changes. He said the PTO policy changes had caused the most discontent among employees and that any reduction in the toke rates was a function of “guest satisfaction” and not the result of any changes implemented by the casino.

Pineault called attention to Mohegan Sun’s ability to hold the line on employee health care costs through its new partnership with Yale New Haven Health, which will open a health center next year at the site of the tribe’s former Arooga’s restaurant on Sandy Desert Road. The center will offer primary care services, walk-in care, musculoskeletal specialty care, physical therapy, X-rays and blood drawing and space for minor surgical procedures.

Arooga’s was closed late last month.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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