Democratic legislators could raise Nevada’s minimum wage on their own, if they wanted to. (Getty images)
Starting Wednesday, Nevada will see its first statewide minimum wage increase in over a decade.
On July 1, Nevada’s minimum wage increases to $8.00 — a raise of $0.75 — as part of a gradual four-year minimum-wage increase signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak in 2019.
The legislation incrementally increases the lowest paying jobs to $12 per hour by 2024, or $11 if an employer offers health insurance.
All hours worked up to midnight on June 30, 2020, will be paid at the previous minimum wage rate, but hours worked on and after 12:01 a.m., July 1, 2020, must be paid at the new higher rate.
The Labor Commissioner conducted multiple trainings before the COVID-19 public health emergency and multiple calls and webinars since then to inform employers and employees of the increase.
Employers are required to provide workers with a paystub or a wage record that includes both the previous rate of pay for the period up to July 1 and the increased rate of pay beginning July 1, according to the Nevada Department of Business and Industry.
If an hourly employee’s workday spans across June 30, 2020, and July 1, 2020, two different rates of pay should be used in the record.
Employees should check their pay stubs to ensure proper payment following the raise.
Officials for the Department of Business and Industry advise workers who believe they’re not being paid correctly to contact their employer first to try and resolve the issue. If the error is not corrected employees can file a wage claim or complaint with the Nevada Office of the Labor Commissioner.
The wage increase has the potential to benefit thousands of employees living in the Silver State. About 260,000 workers in Nevada made $12 per hour or less in 2017, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Those estimates, however, are approximations based on BLS numbers compiled and compared by the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation for the Nevada Legislature.
Other analyses put the numbers and percentages of low-wage employees much higher. An Economic Policy Institute report based on 2014 data suggested 30 percent of all workers in Nevada earn less than $12 per hour.
Two other states will join Nevada on July 1 in raising the minimum wage — Illinois and Oregon. In total, the minimum wage is set to go up in 72 jurisdictions in 2020, according to the advocacy group National Employment Law Project.
While the wage increase in Nevada is modest, Laura Martin, executive director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada — a nonprofit that advocates for workers rights — said the raise is welcome.
“We always want more and we always want it faster but I recognize this is meaningful for families on our path to a living wage,” Martin said.
Several Nevada progressive organizations and unions fought for a $15 an hour minimum wage in line with the national “Fight for $15” effort, including Battle Born Progress, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Make the Road Nevada, and the SEIU, but had to settle for the modest measure passed by the Legislature.
“In a pandemic we need to make sure people have everything they need,” Martin said, adding that workers need a raise more than ever due to the rise of COVID-19 and the resulting economic difficulties families now face. “You can’t survive in Las Vegas on minimum wage.”
Many of the lowest paid jobs have been hit hard in Nevada, depleting finances for countless families. According to DETR, Nevada had 323,700 workers in “accommodations and food services,” the state’s largest employment sector, in April 2019 and 191,400 in April 2020, a drop of 40.9 percent.
There were 146,200 employees in retail trade, the second largest employment sector, in April 2019 and 115,500 in April 2020 — a drop of 21 percent.
Legislation for the minimum wage increase faced hurdles and opposition before being passed, resulting in a delay. The original draft of the bill set the increase to start on Jan. 1, before it was ultimately pushed back to July.
Facing opposition from businesses, lawmakers settled on an incremental raise to $12 an hour. At the time, Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson called the modest increase “palatable.”
Businesses feeling the financial strain of economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are already evaluating how a higher minimum wage will affect the bottom line, said vice president of communications for the Vegas Chamber, Cara Clarke. The chamber is the largest business association in Nevada with a membership of around 4,000 in total, 85 percent of which are small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, said Clarke.
“Raising minimum wage in the middle of this is just going to put added stress on businesses,” Clarke said. “It doesn’t take into account economic reality and circumstances. I think right now is a perfect example of why perhaps it should be market driven and not artificially driven.”
“What you’ll see is that many businesses won’t make it through this,” Clarke said. “It’s a very very scary economy right now.”
Those businesses are also pushing back. The Nevada Department of Business and Industry has received several questions asking if the minimum wage would be postponed in light of the COVID-19 public health emergency, according to Teri Williams, a spokesperson for the Department of Business and Industry Director’s Office.
“Our office will enforce the raise in the minimum wage effective July 1, 2020,” Williams said, in response to the requests.
Clarke warned the wage increase could lead to businesses shutting down and a further drop in employment.
A recent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office lends some credence to that argument, concluding that a minimum wage increase of $15 an hour could cause 1.3 million workers to lose their jobs nationally while a $12 increase could cause 0.3 million workers to be jobless.
That same analysis found that raising the wage to $10 “would have little effect on employment” and also “negligible effects on the number of people in poverty.”
Whatever the result, minimum wage workers will be getting a hard fought raise Wednesday.
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