(CN) -The Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City hired an attorney who secretly recorded shift managers who might be witnesses against it in a discrimination lawsuit, then fired them after getting their statements on tape, three former managers claim in court.
Maryanne Klemmer et al. sued Trump Taj Mahal et al. in Atlantic County Court. Also sued is the Trump Taj Mahal's attorney, John M. Donnelly.
The Taj and Donnelly expected a lawsuit from 18 former table games supervisors who were fired in February 2012 after "plaintiffs and others" evaluated them, the complaint states. The 18 fired workers were expected to sue for "various forms of discrimination," including age discrimination.
The plaintiffs - Klemmer, Bruce Pearlman and Gerald Florio - claim the Taj and Klemmer interviewed them on July 25, 2012, "secretly audiotaped the interview," then fired them 10 days later "without prior notice or warning of disciplinary action."
Klemmer et al. say they did not know the audiotape existed until another Taj Mahal attorney, (nonparty) John Hoffman, revealed its existence and provided a transcript of the interview to an attorney representing the 18 fired supervisors.
Klemmer claims Donnelly never told them he was recording the interview, and misrepresented his intentions by telling them he "would represent plaintiffs named in any lawsuit involving these February 2012 terminations and in fact represented to plaintiffs that they could consider Mr. Donnelly as their attorney in this regard."
In the transcript of the July 25, 2012 group interview, Donnelly tells the three that "you should consider yourselves as represented by us for the purpose of this action" and that they "don't have to be represented by me. You can fire me at any time and say 'I don't want Joe Blow to represent me,'" according to the complaint.
Klemmer says the three cooperated with the investigation but were fired on Aug. 4, originally under the pretext of a reduction in work force, which the Taj then changed to a "change in management style."
"(T)he reasonable inference is that plaintiffs were terminated after participating in a legal process conducted by the employer who was investigating claims of age discrimination or other forms of illegal termination. Plaintiffs' participation in this process on July 25, 2012, and continuing up until they were terminated on Aug. 4, 2012, are considered protected activities by the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, Taj policies and Casino Control Commission rules and regulations," the complaint states.
Klemmer claims the "Taj perceived plaintiffs as supporting the terminated employees or perceived them as potential liabilities should they be sued by the employees. The Taj believed that now that plaintiffs' statements were secretly recorded an on audiotape, they no longer needed plaintiffs' cooperation and that each of the plaintiffs were expendable."
They seek lost wages and damages for wrongful firing, retaliation, and discrimination.
They are represented by Richard L. Press, of Pleasantville, N.J.