Nevada Supreme Court Determines That Employees May Sue For State Law Wage Violations

Volume 16, Issue 22
December 12, 2017

The Nevada Supreme Court issued an important decision on December 7, 2017 in the case of Neville, Jr. v. Eighth Judicial District Court, finding that a person can file a lawsuit to recover unpaid wages under Nevada's wage and hour laws, including Nevada's minimum wage amendment. This decision settles an important and previously unanswered question in Nevada law. Unfortunately for employers, however, it may result in an increase in litigation and class action lawsuits.

Chapter 608 of Nevada law governs how employers must pay their employees. It addresses overtime, breaks and meal periods, payment of wages upon termination, frequency of paychecks, withholdings, and a variety of other wage-related issues. Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 608.180 gives the Nevada Labor Commissioner the power to enforce Chapter 608's requirements, and NRS 608.195 provides for criminal and administrative penalties. Thus, when an employee believes an employer has violated a portion of Chapter 608, he/she files a complaint with the Nevada Labor Commissioner.

As the Nevada Supreme Court recognized in Neville, Jr., Chapter 608 is silent as to whether an employee may instead file his/her own lawsuit to recover unpaid wages. No statutory provision of Chapter 608 expressly provides a private right of action to an employee, and the federal judges who have addressed this issue have disagreed on whether an employee can file a private lawsuit under Chapter 608. The Nevada Supreme Court ended the debate with Neville, Jr., unanimously determining that the Court could imply such a right if it believed this was the Nevada Legislature's intention. The Court explained that because NRS 608.140 allows for an award of attorney's fees in a private lawsuit for recovery of unpaid wages, the Legislature must have intended to allow employees to sue for unpaid wages.

With regard to the Minimum Wage Amendment, the Court's job was easier. The Court found that the Constitutional Amendment enacting Nevada's minimum wage expressly provides that an employee claiming a violation of the minimum wage law can file a lawsuit against his/her employer.

For now, we know that an employee may file a lawsuit in Nevada state court to recover unpaid overtime and/or unpaid wages under Chapter 608 or to remedy minimum wage violations under Nevada's Constitution. It remains to be seen whether the courts will expand the Nevada Supreme Court's decision in Neville, Jr. to apply to other provisions of Chapter 608. Either way, Plaintiffs' lawyers will certainly be interested in this ruling, and employers should expect an increase in litigation over unpaid wage allegations.

If you would like to read the Nevada Supreme Court's decision in Neville, Jr., click here. If you have questions about the decision or need assistance with a wage and hour question, please contact a KZA attorney.

KZA Employer Report articles are for general information only; they are not intended and should not be construed to be legal advice. Reading or replying to such articles does not establish an attorney-client relationship. In addition, because the subject matters and applicable laws discussed in Employer Report articles are often in a state of change and not always applicable to every type of business entity or organization, readers should consult with counsel before making decisions based on the same.