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In a victory for employers in wage and hour class actions, on August 11, 2022, the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of HG Staffing, LLC and MEI-GSR Holdings, LLC, d/b/a Grand Sierra Resort. In Martel v. HG Staffing, LLC, the named representatives in the class action appeal were former employees of the Grand Sierra Resort who alleged violations of Nevada’s minimum wage and overtime laws. In a unanimous opinion, the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision and announced rulings on four issues of first impression regarding Nevada’s wage and hour laws.
First, the Nevada Supreme Court confirmed a two-year statute of limitations period applied to the wage claims at issue. Specifically, the former employees brought claims for violations of NRS 608.016 (pay for each hour worked), NRS 608.018 (overtime), and NRS 608.020 through NRS 608.050 (final paycheck statutes). The employer moved to dismiss as untimely the claims that accrued more than two years before the complaint was filed, and the district court dismissed the claims falling outside that limitations period. On appeal, the Nevada Supreme Court rejected the former employees’ arguments that their claims should instead be subject to a three-year limitations period under NRS 11.190(3)(a). The Nevada Supreme Court disagreed and applied the doctrine of analogous limitations first articulated in a 2016 decision, in which the court held that minimum wage claims brought under the Nevada Minimum Wage Amendment are subject to a two-year limitations period, which begins to accrue after the employee’s final shift.
The Martel court noted that such a limitations period creates uniformity and a consistent application of the law, as NRS 608.115 requires employers to maintain an employee’s wage records for two years. The Nevada Supreme Court reasoned that the former employees’ claims were similar to claims under NRS 608.260 because they both seek to recover unpaid wages. However, the Nevada Supreme Court noted that in 2021 the doctrine of analogous wages was superseded by statute in NRS 11.220. Because this statute is not retroactive, and the former employees brought their claims in 2016, the Nevada Supreme Court declined to decide the limitations period for claims brought after the 2021 amendatory provisions of NRS 11.220 became effective.
Second, the Nevada Supreme Court clarified that a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) does not require a signature, date, or the names of both parties to be valid. Rather, the Martel court held a CBA is valid so long as the evidence demonstrates the union and the employer objectively manifested assent to the agreement. In this case, the union filed grievances and conducted an arbitration under the CBA, and also stated in an arbitration brief and testified at an arbitration that the CBA was ratified. Because there was no evidence that the CBA had not been ratified, the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s conclusion that the CBA was valid.
Third, the Nevada Supreme Court examined the overtime exemption in NRS 608.018(3)(e), which applies to “[e]mployees covered by collective bargaining agreements which provide otherwise for overtime.” The Martel employees argued that the CBA must provide a premium overtime rate for the exemption to apply. In rejecting this interpretation, the Nevada Supreme Court agreed with the district court that under the statute’s plain language, a CBA qualifies for the exemption where it provides overtime in a different way or manner than NRS 608.018(1)-(2). Because the CBA at issue set up a different overtime scheme, it provided overtime in a sufficiently different manner to fall within the exemption of NRS 608.018(3)(e).
Fourth, the Nevada Supreme Court held that claims under NRS 608.040 do not extend the limitations periods for underlying wage claims. The appellants argued that even though the complaint was filed two years and one day after one of the appellants’ final shifts, alleged unpaid wages pursuant to NRS 608.040, which imposes penalties for wages of a discharged employee when they become due, could be recovered. The Nevada Supreme Court ruled that an employee cannot recover time-barred wages by asserting a claim under NRS 608.040 and affirmed summary judgment in favor of Grand Sierra Resort.
The Nevada Supreme Court’s unanimous decision provides guidance to employers on the application of several of Nevada's wage and hour laws. Nevada employers should consult with knowledgeable counsel to ensure compliance with Nevada wage and hour requirements.