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Battle Brewing Over Minimum Wage In Nevada

<p>Protesters rally in front of McDonald's on the Strip, asking for a hike in the minimum wage</p>
Associated Press

Protesters rally in front of McDonald's on the Strip, asking for a hike in the minimum wage

So, who gets minimum wage in Nevada? And how much should they get paid?

That question is not easy to answer in Nevada, which has a two-tiered minimum wage: one for people who get health insurance through their employer, and one for people who don’t.

But what it means to “get” health insurance is apparently up for discussion, and may be heading for the Nevada Supreme Court.

Leon Greenberg is a labor attorney in Las Vegas.

He said the court had to decide whether just offering an employee health care was sufficient or whether an employee had to actually be signed up for the coverage.

The court decided that indeed to be qualified for the lower minimum wage they had to actually be enrolled in insurance, which is contradictory to what the state labor commissioner had ruled.

The commissioner is expected to appeal the decision to the State Supreme Court. 

There are other sticky parts of the law around the 10 percent rule, which limits the amount an employee has to pay in health care premiums to no more than 10 percent of their gross income; however, there is a dispute about whether that number includes or does not include tips.


Labor specialist and professor at Boyd Law School at UNLV Ruben Garcia says the implementation of Nevada's unique minimum wage has been "tricky."

"On what basis do you provide health care? What the value is? That has lead to some difficulties in the courts and with the labor commissioner that we are seeing now," Garcia said. "The question going forward is how can we best implement it going forward, giving the Affordable Care Act, giving the changes in the cost of living to make sure it really is still a living wage."

However, that might be easier to say than to do, because the minimum wage and the two-tier system is in the Nevada Constitution. It will take two votes by the electorate to change it, unless the federal minimum wage is changed.

Editor's note: We invited someone from the Labor Commissioner's office to talk to KNPR's State of Nevada, but they declined because they couldn't talk about rulings on appeal.





Leon Greenberg, labor attorney:  Ruben Garcia, labor specialist and professor at Boyd Law School at UNLV

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(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)