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Court upholds Petaluma card dealer's sexual harassment award

An appeals court has rejected a bid by owners of The 101 Casino in Petaluma to reduce the amount of financial damages awarded to a former dealer at the card room who was sexually harassed by her supervisor and retaliated against when she reported the abuse.

In 2010, a Sonoma County jury awarded the woman more than $2 million in her suit, three quarters of that in punitive damages. A judge later halved that portion of the award to $750,000.

Judge Mark Tansil ruled that the evidence "absolutely supports a jury finding that the defendants engaged in prolonged, reprehensible conduct justifying an award of punitive damages." But he decided the total was excessive compared to the harm suffered. He also ordered the card room owners to pay $1.1 million in attorneys' fees.

Casino 101 owners appealed the emotional distress award of about $500,000, the punitive damages and the attorneys' fees.

In a ruling in late February, the 1st District appellate court agreed Tansil's calculated damages were appropriate.

The plaintiff, Shannen De La Cruz, was a minimum-wage card dealer at The 101 Casino along Highway 101 in north Petaluma from September 2004 until she was fired in July 2006.

Bill Bundesen and Randy Yaple, the two men De La Cruz said harassed and retaliated against her, remained employed after she was fired. She testified that unwanted sexual comments from Bundesen, her supervisor, began a few months after she started and continued after she reported the offensive behavior to human resources. Bundesen then began disciplining her for minor or fabricated problems.

De La Cruz said after she complained about Bundesen, the club's general manager, Yaple, once put his arm around her lower waist.

The card room operators, Cal-Pac Sonoma and Cal-Pac Group, are among several gaming interests held by John Park of Nevada.


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