NEVADA SUPREME COURT RULES ON WAGE & HOUR LAWSUIT INVOLVING COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT
Earlier this year, the Nevada Supreme Court handed down a ruling that impacts wage claims brought by employees under Nevada employment laws.
In Martel v. HG Staffing, LLC, four (4) prior employees (Martel employees) filed claims for unpaid minimum wage and overtime wages against the Grand Sierra Resort (GSR). The GSR is run and owned by HG Staffing, LLC, and MEI-GSR Holdings, LLC (HG Staffing). The Martel employees allege that during their employment they were required by GSR to complete certain tasks without pay, including attending meetings or classes, getting into uniform, or reconciling cash amounts. Of note, employees at the GSR are generally members of Culinary Workers Union Local 226 (Culinary Union), which has a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with HG Staffing.
The Martel employees filed a class action suit against HG Staffing in 2016. The suit asserted the following: HG Staffing failed to pay them for the work they completed in violation of (1) NRS 608.016 (requires an employer to pay wages for each hour worked); (2) the Minimum Wage Amendment (MWA) of Nevada’s Constitution, Nev. Const, art. 15, § 16 (requires employers to pay employees a minimum hourly wage); (3) NRS 608.018 (requires an employer to pay overtime wages); and (4) NRS 608.020 through NRS 608.050 (requires an employer to timely pay a former employee their earned wages).
After the district court issued three (3) orders all of which were in HG Staffing’s favor, the Martel employees appealed those order to the Nevada Supreme Court. The Supreme Court issued an opinion which provided clarification on several points of Nevada employment law.
First, the Court ruled that the two-year statute of limitation under NRS 608.260 applied to the wage claims brought by the Martel employees. Therefore, the claims were time barred as the Martel employees brought their claims more than two years after leaving GSR.
Relatedly, the Court ruled that because the wage claims under NRS 608.016 and NRS 608.018 were time barred, the Martel employees could not attempt to recover wages under NRS 608.040, which penalizes employers for failing to pay discharged or quitting employees timely.
Second, the Court ruled that the CBA between the Culinary Union and HG Staffing was valid. The Court noted that as long as the employer and the union objectively manifested their assent to the agreement, it didn’t matter that the CBA was unsigned, undated, and omits one of the parties. Evidence that the CBA was ratified between the parties was enough to make the CBA valid.
Further, the Court found the employees lacked standing to bring the claims on behalf of the union members. In order to have standing to represent union members in a class-action lawsuit, individual employees must allege that the union failed to fairly represent its members. The Court found they had failed to allege that the Culinary Union breached its duty of fair representation.
Finally, the Court ruled that where an employer is a party to a CBA and that CBA provides overtime in a manner different from what is outlined in NRS 608.018, the employer is exempt from the terms of NRS 608.018. Specifically, NRS 608.018(3)(e) states that the requirements to pay overtime pursuant to NRS 608.018 do not apply to “[e]mployees covered by collective bargaining agreements which provide otherwise for overtime.” The Court found that the CBA’s overtime scheme provided overtime in a sufficiently different manner to fall within the exemption.
For those reasons, the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the rulings of the district court in HG Staffing’s favor.
This case illustrates the exemptions CBAs often carve out in Nevada’s employment law. It’s important for employers to understand the terms of any CBAs they are subject to and how those terms affect their obligations to employees.
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