LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The “Right to Return” bill is officially law in Nevada. It essentially guarantees certain hospitality workers who lost their jobs during the shutdown that they’ll be re-hired.

But some workers still feel left behind.

As resorts ramp up normal operations, more and more people in the hospitality industry are getting back to work. Employees say that is all they want, but not every casino company says the new law is the best way to do that.

“I wanted my job back,” said hospitality worker Mario Sandoval.

Mario Sandoval

For 36 years, he worked as a food server at Binion’s Ranch Steakhouse. Then, he was laid off in March 2020 during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“Financially, it was devastating,” Sandoval said. “Emotionally, I can tell you on the third month, I went through depression.”

But he says there is now a light at the end of the tunnel. He was notified he will be back to work soon. He says his re-training will start July 19 — and the eatery is set to open on Aug. 4.

“That felt really good,” Sandoval said.

The “Right to Return” bill guarantees certain workers their former positions, or similar ones, once those jobs become available. They must be casino, hospitality, stadium and travel-related employees who were let go due to the pandemic. They also needed to work for at least six months of the year, preceding March 12, 2020.

Priority is given to those with seniority, and they have 24 hours to accept or decline an offer.

Station Casinos sent a letter last month to former full-time staff members, saying because the law’s rules about return order are confusing, they would not be filling jobs they normally would — because those jobs are not available. That includes positions at buffets.

8 News Now spoke to Kenia Chobas, a former employee at the buffet at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Spa and Casino.

“I only want to work,” she said. “I want all I lost in this time. I want to get it back.”

Kenia Chobas

Referencing other major resorts, the Culinary Union tells 8 News Now, “They are bringing workers back at the same level of seniority, pay, and benefits. It would be a shame if the non-union companies don’t follow the standard set by the largest gaming employers in Nevada.”

Station Casinos is pushing back, saying they have hired back more than 1,500 employees and “everyone has received the same or better pay with great Station Casinos benefits.”

The company’s full statement reads:

The Right to Return law, while a political triumph for the Culinary Union, is a policy disaster. 

Despite being advertised as being designed to get Nevadans back to work, it actually deters hiring by combining vague order of return hiring requirements with excessive penalties for employers who cannot decipher the law’s vague requirements. And, it gives priority to hire date for positions, meaning an On-Call or Part-Time employee gets priority over Full-Time employees if they were hired prior-even for full time jobs. The Culinary Union should come clean and explain to their members and everyone else that the law does precisely the opposite of what it was supposed to do – encourage rehiring.

Last year, Station Casinos continued to pay its Team Members after the shutdown, as one of only three casino companies to do so. The Culinary Union lied and claimed that we only did that as a response to the union. Station Casinos called that out as a lie and demanded the union provide facts to their false claim. They couldn’t.  Now the union is saying we should be more like the casinos with collective bargaining agreements and bring Team Members back at the same or higher salary. We already did that and continue to do so. 

Over 1,500 full-time Station Casinos Team Members have returned, a number that continues to grow, and  everyone has received the same or better pay and with great Station Casinos benefits including free healthcare. The union continues to spread lies because they don’t want anyone to know the truth – Right to Return does precisely the opposite of its intentions – it doesn’t encourage rehiring but discourages and penalizes employers for rehiring.”

Station Casinos

Workers say they are just fighting for their livelihoods.

“We have the right to return to work,” Sandoval said.

Again, we want to stress Station Casinos is hiring people back — they just have not reopened the same positions that were available before the pandemic.

The new law went into effect on July 1, 2021 and will expire at the end of August 2022.

The Culinary Union’s full statement on the matter is as follows:

The largest casino companies in Nevada have been going through this process for a year, major resorts already have already agreed to 2-year recall language, and they are bringing workers back at the same level of seniority, pay, and benefits. It would be a shame if the non-union companies don’t follow the standard set by the largest gaming employers in Nevada.

Station Casinos is doing job fairs to hire new workers, but not bringing previous workers back? Shameful. Do they need the workers or do they not? They keep changing their message. If they need workers, they could easily bring former full-time employees back right now. As of July 1st, they will have to bring back laid off workers to the same or a similar job.

The Culinary Union is deeply disappointed that Republicans shamefully refused to stand with their constituents who are front-line essential hospitality workers and voted against Right to Return at every opportunity. It’s also disappointing that Station Casinos, Nevada’s third largest private employer, fought the Right to Return every step of the way and actively lobbied against the bill in Carson City.”

Culinary Workers Union Local 226