When Sandra Burdette was called back to work dealing blackjack at Agua Caliente's Rancho Mirage casino last week, her first thought was 'too soon.'
"I know one thing: I'm keeping my mom and me safe, no matter what," Burdette said.
Speaking exclusively to News Channel 3, Burdette said in her mind, it's a matter of life or death – and despite the tribal chairman saying otherwise last week, she claims she was told to come back to work or get fired.
"I'm upset, sure, I don't feel like it's time to be there yet. There's too many people still carrying (coronavirus)," she said. "They obviously don't really care about anybody, I mean as far as their employees go. I mean, 'Just open the door, we gotta get open.'"
Burdette is taking care of her elderly mother at home, and doesn't want to risk getting her sick.
"She can’t breathe from the bathroom to the couch – I’m 60, my mom’s 93," she said.
So Burdette was relieved to hear Agua Caliente Tribal Chairman Jeff Grubbe say last week that concerned casino employees would have a choice when to return to work.
"We gave those employees the opportunity to wait and let us open without them," Grubbe told News Channel 3. "They're still considered employees, they'll still receive benefits, and as things progress we'll give them the opportunity to come back or not."
"Of course, we got ahold of HR and they said that (Grubbe) misspoke – that’s not true," Burdette said. "If you don’t show up for work, it’s job abandonment."
Friday when the casinos reopened with new protective measures in place, Burdette showed up for her shift – wearing a face shield as an added precaution.
"My boss walks up to me and says you can’t wear that," she said. "And I said, 'Well, I want to wear it; it protects my eyes.' And he said, 'Well, I'm gonna have to send you home.'"
She said despite casino-goers being required to wear face masks, social distancing isn't being practiced. "The first seat on a blackjack game isn’t even two feet – you’re face to face."
And Burdette is left unsure if dealing cards is a gamble she's willing to take.
"There’s no job worth my life or my mother's," she said.
A spokeswoman for Agua Caliente said they will follow up with Burdette on the matter, but didn't comment on whether or not the chairman's statement still stands.
Tonight two of the valley's casinos, Fantasy Springs and Augustine, remain closed.