Our lawmakers in Carson City passed bills governing all areas of the law in their 2021 session, even during the pandemic they were hard at work. Many of these laws focused on workplace safety and wage inequities. Our legislature was busy addressing unfair employment practices and workplace safety issues. based upon race, immigration status and socio-economic position.
They passed laws to expand employee rights to brings claims against their employers to adding protections for cannabis industry workers. Our legislature stands on the forefront of protecting our employees and their civil rights in the state of Nevada. Our legislature was brave enough to step up and address the issues head on and protect and preserve employee rights in Nevada. Although we are an at will employment state, the legislature added protection for Nevada employees. also addressed pandemic issues to allow our state administrators greater freedom in accessing medical supplies. The following is a summary of the workplace bills that were passed by our Nevada legislature during the 2021 session.
Assembly Bill 222: Expands whistleblower protections to cover employees who report workplace problems internally. This bill protects employees who report issues in their workplace to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Under the existing law, when an employee files a complaint alleging unfair employment practices with the equal rights commission and commission in turn concludes that unfair employment practice have taken place, The person alleging the unfair practice is authorized to bring civil action in the District Court. Existing law prohibits the person from bringing the civil action more than 180 days after the act constituting the unfair employment practice occurred or more than 90 days after the right to sue letter was issued by the commission, whichever is later. The existing law also provides that the 90 day and 180-day periods of limitation are tolled during the pendency of the complaint provisions. This new bill extends the coverage of those provisions to actions in the District Court for occurrence of unlawful employment practices under title VII and issuance of the right to sue letter by the equal employment opportunity commission. This bill further tolls the 90- and 180-day statute of limitations periods during the pendency of the complaint before the federal equal opportunity employment commission.
Assembly Bill 227: Seeks to ensure that construction industry workers are paid wages in line with their skills and prevents “off the books” work. This bill is an attempt to protect construction workers and prevent the widespread practice of having workers “work off the books“. The bill is an attempt to ensure that construction industry workers are paid wages in line with their skills. Under existing law, a person licensed to be a contractor and engage in the business of constructing, altering, or repairing structures must follow certain employment practices. This bill differentiates and defines the types of work performed that requires a contractor’s license as well as persons who may perform work for a contractor that do not require a contractor’s license. This bill sets forth additional acts which will constitute cause for disciplinary action against a contractor by the state contractors board to include retaining sub-contractors to perform work were a license is necessary who are not licensed contractors.
In reading this bill, is its entirety I find it almost unintelligible and poorly worded. However, In researching the history of this bill, this bill was lobbied for by the Nevada construction workers union who called for a crackdown on what they called “tax and wage fraud.“ The unions that represented carpenters were calling on law makers to pass a bill to fight what they called “fraud and wage theft” in the construction industry. This bill is supposed to require everyone working on a construction project that requires a general contractor to be employees of the company or contracted licensed subcontractors. The union believes this bill will discourage the practice of hiring workers “under the table“ and paying them cash. The carpenters union argued that unscrupulous companies use this method to get out of paying for general liability insurance, Worker’s Comp, Social Security and unemployment taxes. They asked the legislature to crack down on these employers that do not play by the rules. The union saw this as a growing problem in the industry. After their diligent lobbying efforts, assembly bill 227 passed and is an attempt to curb this practice. However, I do not believe the wording of the bill will necessarily accomplish its goal. https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/81st2021/Bill/7666/Text
Various effective dates through Oct 1, 2021.
Senate Bill 122: This bill requires specific cannabis establishment employees to undergo safety and prevention training. This bill requires that no later than one year after cannabis employee is hired, that the employee must obtain a completion card of the OSHA 10 (Occupational Safety and Health Administration — a Government agency) course. Supervisory employees must complete the OSHA 30 course. The bill provides for fines for employers for failing to comply with this training requirement for their employees. Current law already requires that employees on construction sites complete these courses. This bill incorporates employees of cannabis establishments who are now required to complete these courses.
In a letter to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee dated March 3, 2021, the Nevada Dispensary Association opposed this bill. They believed that the mandate was overreaching and applied harsh penalties that were inequitable as compared to other industries. They argued that employees that only work at the dispensaries should be exempt from this requirement because those employees were not in a setting where they are at elevated risk for accidents, and they do not operate dangerous equipment or heavy machinery. They argued there was no equivalent safety requirement for employees working in air-conditioned space such as retail having to go through this training. I do find it unusual that employees that work at a counter at a dispensary are required to undergo the same training as those working with heavy machinery on construction sites when people working at the counter at retail department stores are not required to undergo these same training courses.
The Nevada Dispensary Association further argued that the mandatory penalties imposed on the cannabis industry were far out of line with the standard practices of penalties for any other industry. In addition, they argued that cannabis establishments are inspected and have access to best practice resources like Nevada OSHA safety consultant and training section to prevent workplace injuries. The Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board believed that the Nevada cannabis compliance regulations already provide substantial and specific training requirements for employees of the cannabis industry. They believed these additional training requirements were unnecessary for most dispensary employees.
However, the bill was supported by UFCW local 711 on behalf of cannabis workers. The union represented 6800 members of the united food and commercial workers local union 711 and they submitted a letter to support the bill. The union pointed out that members in Nevada work in grocery stores, retail establishments, chemical manufacturing food processing plants. They argued that the legal cannabis industry and all other industries should be required to undergo these courses. The union argued that members of the cannabis industry work in growing and cultivating facilities, manufacturing facilities, and processing facilities as well as laboratories. It really appears that the bill did not accomplish what it may have been intended it to accomplish in those workers working with farm equipment or cultivating the product are far different from those selling the product at the counters in the dispensaries. I believe the bill should have been more qualified to specific types of employees and not broad-based to include all retail employees. https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/81st2021/Bill/7460/Text
Effective on July 1, 2021.
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