Employees, beware: four areas to watch

Employees, beware: four areas to watch

The unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in two decades, and there are currently more job vacancies in the country than there are unemployed people actively looking for work. Nevada’s unemployment rate is about a percentage point higher than the national rate, but we’ve come a long way since the Great Recession devastated Nevada’s economy from Hawthorne to Henderson. Observers are puzzled why wages aren’t rising quickly during a period of such stable employment, and workers should know this is the best opportunity they’ve had in years to ask for a raise. As you work up the courage to have that conversation with your boss, monitor these four areas of your work and life to make sure you’re being treated fairly.

Count your hours

With the availability of smartphones these days, you can keep a cloud-based spreadsheet of your work hours right in your pocket. This is a very good practice for hourly employees and does not harm salaried people either. Clerical mistakes or – in some workplaces – shady practices can result in small hours being shaved that can cost you big in the long run. Recording your hours on a separate document helps protect against this potential abuse and makes it easier for you to plan your household income and budget. If you believe you have been a victim of wage theft, the Las Vegas Workforce Center can provide advice and referrals.

Employee or not?

If your employer has been extolling the benefits of being an “independent contractor,” be wary. Employers often emphasize the ability to deduct employment expenses and “pick your hours” when you work for them as an independent contractor. But these same employers often impose strict requirements on the nature of your work, making you an employee by another name. This has several advantages for employers: Wage and hour regulations may not apply, they may forgo paying the employer’s share of federal taxes, and they may reduce the cost of workers’ compensation benefits and insurance. So-called worker’s comp is funded in a variety of ways; in Nevada, employers pay insurance premiums to private companies based on the number of workers, industry and other factors. If your employer mischaracterizes you as an independent contractor, they may not pay the appropriate amount of workers’ compensation insurance. If you have concerns about a worker’s compensation issue at your Las Vegas workplace, contact Benson & Bingham or another reputable southern Nevada Workers’ Compensation Law advice firm.

Paid Leave: Take It, Don’t Leave It

When you’re hired, make sure you understand how paid time off (PTO) accrues, whether it expires at some point, and what happens to those hours when you leave the company. You want to know this information when the relationship with your employer is positive, so that if things go badly, you know what rights to protect. After many years of service, some employees feel a sense of loyalty that can prevent them from “cashing in” the paid vacation they have earned. Remember: this paid time off accrues as an alternative to a higher salary. If your sense of duty doesn’t make you want to forgo annual raises, don’t let it trick you into giving up your well-earned PTO! Also, make sure you understand the Federal Medical Leave Act, which generally applies to employers with 50 or more employees. This law can protect your job if you take unpaid leave for certain family needs. To learn more about Nevada’s paid leave worker protections, contact the Nevada Labor Commissioner or visit workplacefairness.org.


A final area to watch is unique to historically subordinated and marginalized groups, including women and people of color: discrimination. (While federal law is changing on this topic, Nevada law regulates discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.) Discrimination can occur at any point in the employment relationship: hiring decisions, pay disparities, harassment and hostile work environments, enforcement of workplace policies, distribution of promotions and other benefits, and termination. Several Las Vegas law firms specialize in employment discrimination cases and can advise you on fair employment issues at their offices in Henderson, North Las Vegas and throughout Clark County.

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