Lawsuit filed against Harrah’s New Orleans, Vici Properties Inc., and a casino security manager
New Orleans, Louisiana, Nov. 15, 2021 – A Harrah’s New Orleans security manager violated an Army lieutenant’s civil rights by falsely accusing her of fraud because he could not believe the young Black woman could have achieved the rank on her military ID, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.
U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Deja Harrison, 23, experienced race and gender discrimination when the manager denied her entry into the casino and called the police, the lawsuit states. The manager’s discriminatory bias was so profound, he even refused to scan her valid military ID, as caught on a now viral video of the encounter.
Harrison was celebrating her brother’s 21st birthday on Oct. 4, 2021, at Harrah’s, where the family had rented a room. She and her brother, who was excited to turn 21, went to the casino in the early morning hours.
At the entrance, they were asked for identification. Harrah’s scanner failed to properly read Harrison’s valid Louisiana driver’s license. She immediately provided her military ID to be scanned. But instead of scanning it, the manager accused her of handing him a fake — saying there was no way possible she attained the Staff Sergeant (E-6) rank shown on her ID so quickly. He also said her photo didn’t match her face, according to the complaint.
Harrison explained that her current rank is even higher — 2nd Lieutenant (O-1) — in an attempt to correct his biased conclusion. Harrison recorded the incident on her cell phone to protect her rights and document the injustice unfolding before her, according to the lawsuit filed in Orleans Parish. The video has since been viewed on Twitter nearly 298,000 times.
“This manager would not believe that a young, Black woman could achieve the rank that she did through her hard work and dedication in the Army,” said Harrison’s attorney, V. James DeSimone. “Engaging in stereotypes and denying her access to a public facility based on her race and gender violates Louisiana human rights laws.”
“Harrah’s made things worse by issuing a public statement seeking to cast blame on Lt. Harrison, inaccurately stating the facts, and confirming the manager failed to follow its own protocols on use of its electronic scanner,” DeSimone added.
The lawsuit alleges the manager accused Harrison of trespassing and said he was calling New Orleans Police. She waited two hours in the lobby and was in fear for her life, knowing people of color have been falsely arrested and subjected to excessive force by police across the country. Police never arrived. According to the complaint, the manager falsely imprisoned Harrison, a violation of New Orleans Municipal Code.
In addition to Harrah’s, the lawsuit names Harrah’s owner Vici Properties, and the security manager as defendants. It seeks damages for the harm caused by the defendant’s discriminatory practices, invading Harrison’s civil rights, inflicting intentional emotional distress, and false imprisonment. It also seeks to have Harrah’s develop an alternative method for verifying someone’s identity when the scanner doesn’t read their ID.
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Attorney V. James DeSimone is a 35+ year experienced civil rights & employment lawyer in Southern California. Jim is a Super Lawyer, Rated “Superb” by Avvo, and is a US News & World Report Best Law Firm in California.
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