Nevada’s liability questioned in worker lawsuit bill |

Nevada’s liability questioned in worker lawsuit bill

BEN KIECKHEFER, Associated Press

An attorney general’s estimate that a legal rights bill for state workers could cost Nevada nearly $2 million a year was challenged Tuesday by several lawmakers.

AB341, by Assemblyman John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, would erase Nevada’s immunity from lawsuits filed by state workers claiming violations of federal civil rights and fair labor laws.

The attorney general’s office submitted a fiscal note estimating a cost of $1.9 million annually from lawsuits against Nevada should the bill, now in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, pass.

But Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said she expects the fiscal note won’t deter the committee or the full Assembly from approving the measure.

“We have a built-in mechanism to diminish any such amounts (of lawsuit claims), and that is, ‘Don’t discriminate,”‘ Buckley said.

Assemblyman David Goldwater, D-Las Vegas, said that adding a fiscal note to AB341 is an admission of guilt.

“I found it fascinating that what you’re basically saying in the fiscal note is that we’re going to break the law to the tune of ($1.9 million) a year,” Goldwater said.

Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, added the Ways and Means Committee has the right to reject the fiscal note if it finds the estimate unreasonable.

The fiscal note says the attorney general’s office would need three additional employees to handle lawsuits. It states the office would also incur costs from hiring outside attorneys in some instances.

The bill would waive Nevada’s lawsuit immunity in cases involving the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The measure was sought in part because of the case of a Nevada welfare office worker, William Hibbs, fired in a dispute over how much leave he could take to care for his ailing wife. That case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Labor and women’s rights groups are supporting Hibbs, while 13 other states and some conservative legal groups are supporting Nevada, which argues it’s immune from such lawsuits.