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Steven J. Klearman
Steven J. Klearman
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Nevada Supreme Court Clarifies Labor Law

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The Supreme Court recently clarified some Nevada labor law issues in Baldonado v. Wynn Las Vegas, 124 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 81 (October 9, 2008).

In this class action lawsuit, Plaintiffs, table game dealers, were at-will employees at a casino in Las Vegas. The casino modified its employment policy to require the dealers to share the tips received from customers with persons in certain lower-level management positions. The dealers brought an action in district court, believing that the new policy violated Nevada labor laws, including NRS 608.160, which prohibits employers from taking employee tips.

The Court addressed three issues:

1) Question: Does NRS 608.160 imply a private cause of action to enforce its terms?

Conclusion: The Nevada Labor Commissioner must administratively hear and decide complaints that arise under Nevada’s labor laws. There is no private cause of action to enforce NRS 608.160 in the district courts in the first instance.

2) Question: Is declaratory relief nonetheless available to employees who allege that the statute’s terms were violated by an employment policy?

Conclusion 2: Declaratory relief is not available when an adequate statutory remedy exists, so the employees lacked standing to seek declaratory relief.

3) Did those employees assert a viable breach of contract claim based on the employer’s unilateral modification to the employment policy?

Conclusion 3: Because the plaintiffs are at-will employees, whose employment terms are generally subject to unilateral prospective modification by the employer, and because as a matter of law they had no enforceable contract concerning the future distribution of their tips, the employees failed to assert a viable claim of breach of contract.