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Former MGM Springfield Diversity Manager Files Lawsuit Against Casino

SPRINGFIELD — Chelan Brown, former diversity manager at MGM Springfield, filed a discrimination lawsuit last week alleging that senior management, including then-President Michael Mathis, racially discriminated against her and pressured her to submit falsified reports on the company’s diversity hiring practices to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), among other allegations.

According to casino.org, MGM Springfield originally tasked Brown with ensuring that the construction workforce hired to build the $960 million facility was diverse and satisfied state requirements. The casino opened in August 2018.

The MGC gave MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor ambitious diversity hiring goals. During construction, the MGC said each casino should strive to contract at least 10% of the overall construction work with women-owned businesses. At least 2% of the vendor contracts were additionally to go to veteran-owned entities.

Upon opening, the MGC said minorities and women should account for at least half of MGM Springfield’s total workforce. The numbers reported by MGM Resorts to the MGC during construction and the casino’s opening outpaced those minimums. But Brown claims many of those statistics weren’t accurate.

In a lawsuit naming MGM Springfield and Mathis, as defendants, Brown alleges that she was forced to fudge the casino’s diversity numbers. When she eventually refused to further relay fabricated numbers, Brown alleges she was demoted to a lesser position with longer hours and less pay, which eventually resulted in her termination.

MGM Resorts and the MGC both acknowledged Brown’s lawsuit, but said the organizations had no immediate public comment.

Brown is seeking financial damages for allegedly being racially discriminated against and retaliated against by MGM management, breach of conduct, failure to deliver on promises of employment, and attempts to force an employee to submit fraudulent documents.

Brown, who has since gone on to work with Behavioral Health Network, said she was repeatedly harassed by Mathis while the two worked at MGM Springfield. Mathis stepped down from his position in January 2020, just two months after Brown was fired.

Brown alleges in her legal complaint that Mathis forced her to overstate employment statistics for many of the contractors MGM Springfield hired during construction. When she told Mathis she didn’t feel comfortable reporting the diversity metrics to the MGC, “President Mathis stated angrily that he would present the numbers to the MGC and ordered the team to ‘report the numbers this way,’ meaning inaccurately,” Brown’s lawsuit asserts.

Brown claims Mathis retaliated against her by demoting her to a conference services position, an area in which she had no prior experience. She took the job anyway, as it was the only option afforded to her after Mathis said she wouldn’t be retained as diversity manager. The conference services role came with a pay package that was 6.34% less than her diversity management role.

Brown’s lawsuit also alleges that she was forced to routinely attend corporate events where Mathis and other MGM executives overconsumed alcohol. “Senior levels of the organization began acting like they were in charge of a fraternity house and not a responsible organization,” Brown’s attorneys allege.

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