Tens — perhaps hundreds (by some estimates) — of thousands of Nevadans have gotten, or will soon get, the bad news: They’ve been laid off due to the coronavirus crisis business stoppage. It’s an emotional, frightening time.
What should they do first? With the caveat that none of this is legal advice for any individual’s particular situation, UNLV Law Professor Ruben Garcia, who co-directs the William S. Boyd School of Law’s Workplace Program, offers this step-by-step guide to making the best of a difficult situation.
Employees’ best defense, he says, is to talk to each other about what everyone is experiencing: “Keep in touch with all kinds of information about what was said to everyone, who was paid, who wasn’t. Are some people being paid and other not? Is there some kind of discrimination going on? Go to your union, if you have one … This may give (employees) some time or standing to work out some other kind of deal.”
“Most people are going to be employees, even if their employers tell them they’re contractors,” he says. “Most people are misclassified. It’s a factual discussion about how the employer exercises control over your job,” not, as many people think, a matter of the number of hours you work, or whether you have employer-provided benefits.
Unions, which have historically helped Americans through tough times, represent only about only 15 percent of the state’s entire workforce (and that’s more than twice the national average). And it’s hard for plaintiffs to find attorneys to represent them, while employers have their in-house or contracted legal teams.
“You’re your own attorney,” Garcia says. “It may be hard to find attorneys to consult with, and there aren’t a lot of attorneys who specialize in this. It’s a big need in the community.”
No matter where you are in the process, Garcia says, gather everything you can — forms you receive, written communications, notes from conversations. He stresses the importance of keeping in touch with coworkers. And, finally, remember self-care. You can’t be your own best advocate without a healthy life balance.