CHEROKEE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Trey Peterson loves his country, loves his wife, and loved – his job.
Until he was fired. He said it was because he sounded the alarm on the hazards at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino where he and his wife both worked. He was a casino dealer. She, Deborah, was a server.
It was February 7, 2021, and a deafening alarm in the casino caused chaos. Trey, dealing cards, immediately had flashbacks to military training.
“I felt helpless because my supervisor was refusing to allow me and my co-workers to evacuate,” he said.
Deborah approached Trey in a panic.
“Why are you still here? We have to evacuate.” She adds that security wouldn’t allow guests to evacuate. Trey and Deborah said there were “hundreds” of guests trying to leave.
Eventually, everyone was allowed to evacuate but bedlam persisted. Trey said the exits had been blocked “for the past two and half years” going on three years, due to construction, and they’ve never updated the procedure or properly trained employees.
As a disabled vet, he went to the darkest of places.
“We live in a world of acts of terrorism, active shooter bomb threats, you don’t know, to be sitting helplessly not being allowed to evacuate, with someone else in control of your life, it’s extremely uncomfortable and scary,” he said.
Although an electrical malfunction prompted the alarm, Trey’s complaint centers on evacuation hazards. And while the occupational safety and health administration was responsive, eventually citing Harrah’s Cherokee in August 2021, Trey said it’s not enough.
“I have concerns for not only employee safety but guest safety as well because OSHA can only address employee safety,” he explained.
And even being fired hasn’t deterred Trey.
“Whistleblowers shouldn’t have to fear retaliation for speaking up and doing the right thing they should be rewarded, but 45 days after I file my complaint not just fire me, but my wife. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
He has hired a lawyer. But he has yet to file a lawsuit. Trey wants his job back, but he wants more – and it’s not money. He wants Harrah’s to provide a safe environment for employees and guests. And he wants his company to “be better.”