Labor commission fields minimum wage questions | NevadaAppeal.com
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Labor commission fields minimum wage questions

BRIAN DUGGAN
bduggan@nevadaappeal.com

The Nevada Department of Labor gets plenty of complaints a year – about 2,500 annually since 2006 – said Labor Commissioner Michael Tanchek.

Among those complaints are questions about the minimum wage, which got a raise on July 1 to $8.25 an hour for employees who don’t get qualified health benefits from their employer and $7.25 an hour for those who do.

Tanchek said his office is usually flooded with calls whenever the wage increases.

Nevada’s minimum wage law changed in 2006 after Nevada voters passed Question 6, which was pushed by the Nevada AFL-CIO, with nearly 69 percent of the vote. The new law aimed to raise the Silver State’s minimum wage based on the federal rate or the cumulative cost of living.

At the time, Nevada’s $5.15 an hour minimum wage had not increased since 1998. Today, it’s one of the highest in the nation.

And according to Tanchek: “We’ve got the most complicated minimum wage laws in the country.”

Qualified health benefits

Tanchek said many employers are often confused over what qualifies as health benefits, which would mean they pay their employees $7.25 an hour instead of $8.25 an hour.

There’s no single definition for a qualified health insurance plan, but the law uses the same language the state Department of Taxation uses to determine if a business qualifies for a deduction in the modified business tax.

In other words, if a business qualifies for a deduction in the modified business tax because of the health insurance plan it offers to employees, then that means the business also qualifies for the lower minimum wage instead of the higher.

Are there exceptions to the minimum wage?

Only for minors and employees between the ages of 18 and 20 who are new on the job.

Minors under the age of 18 are not covered by Nevada’s minimum wage law, however, they are covered by the federal wage, which is $7.25.

An employee who is 18 to 20 can be paid less than the minimum wage for the first 90 calendar days on a new job while going through training. After the 90 days are up, Nevada’s minimum wage rules apply.

Another exception is if employees agree in a collective bargaining agreement that they will work for less than the minimum wage. Tanchek said a Las Vegas cab union agreed to be paid less than the minimum wage, for example.

What about tips?

Tips cannot be used to offset the minimum wage, despite federal law that allows it.

How does the state

determine minimum wage?

• Minimum wage increases are announced every April 1 by the labor commissioner at http://www.laborcommissioner. com. Wage adjustments are to be made by July 1 following the announcement.

• The minimum wage increases by two factors: Increases in the federal minimum wage or a greater increase in the cumulative cost of living, a measurement compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If the CPI is used, the wage adjustment cannot be greater than 3 percent.