2020 – The Year of the Employee

In the absence of a contract between an employee and employer, employment in Nevada is “at-will.”[1] Most people understand this to mean that employees have vanishingly few rights in the workplace, and that employers can do almost anything they want.  While for many years this was largely accurate, the Nevada legislature has recently taken major steps to shift the balance of power between employees and employers.  In fact, the changes to Nevada law in this area are so significant that 2020 may rightly be described as the Year of the Employee.

Paid Vacation for All

As of January 1, 2020, Nevada law requires many employers to provide paid leave to employees at a rate of 0.01923 hours of paid leave for every hour worked by an employee.[2] This is the equivalent of a full 40 hours of paid leave per year for full-time workers. Although the benefit is calculated based on hours worked, it applies regardless of whether an employee is paid on an hourly, salary, commission, or piece-rate basis.[3] While there are exceptions for small employers[4] and newly opened businesses,[5] the impact of this new policy will be far-reaching, and will provide a valuable benefit to countless employees.

Minimum Wages On the Rise

Nevada currently has a two-tiered minimum wage that permits employers to pay a lower wage to employees who are offered qualifying health benefits as part of their employment.[6] Beginning January 1, 2020, the applicable minimum wages will be $8.00/hour and $9.00/hour.[7] The applicable minimum wages will further increase every year through 2024, when they will be $11/hour for employees offered qualifying health benefits, and $12.00/hour for those not offered such benefits.[8] These forward looking rates will help to ensure that Nevada workers receive a living wage for full-time work.

Health Benefits Improved for Minimum Wage Workers

Beginning January 1, 2020, the qualifying health benefits that allow an employer to pay the lower of the two minimum wage tiers in effect at any given time are defined and expanded to ensure that they include certain coverages, and provide employees with a certain minimum value of coverage.[9] In essence, employers will not be able to pay a reduced minimum wage without providing employees with a legitimately valuable health insurance benefit.

Marijuana Use No Longer a Bar to Employment

Following the legalization of recreational marijuana, Nevada has taken steps to align employees’ rights at work with their right to consume marijuana outside of work. New laws effective January 1, 2020 ensure that the use of marijuana outside of work will not prevent most employees from being considered for employment.[10] Specifically, an employer cannot refuse to hire a prospective employee because a screening test indicated the presence of marijuana, except in certain limited circumstances, for example when an applicant is seeking a position as a firefighter or EMT.[11] This policy strikes a balance between an individual’s rights to use legal substances outside of work with the safety of the public and other employees in the workplace.

It is clear that Nevada is taking employee rights seriously, and there are many ongoing changes in all areas of employment law. While the fast pace of change may inconvenience some employers, the overall impact will be to even the playing field between employees and employers. The above-mentioned policies, and other employment law developments, will ensure that Nevada continues to be a great place to open and operate a business, while also being a great place to work.

[1] E.g., Yeager v. Harrah’s Club, 111 Nev. 830, 834, 897 P.2d 1093, 1095 (1995)(citing Smith v. Cladianos, 104 Nev. 67, 68, 752 P.2d 233, 234 (1988)).
[2] NRS 608.0197(1)(a).
[3] See NRS 608.0197(1)(e).
[4] NRS 608.0197(9)(b).
[5] NRS 608.0197(7).
[6] NRS 608.250; Nev. Const. Art. 15, § 16.
[7] NRS 608.250(1)(b).
[8] NRS 608.250(1)(f).
[9] NRS 608.258.
[10] NRS 613.132
[11] NRS 613.132(2).

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