Human resources professionals get primer on legislative session |

Human resources professionals get primer on legislative session

Sally Roberts
S. Brett Sutton
Photographer: Kelly Petersen |

The Northern Nevada Human Resources Association gathered Wednesday, March 8, for its first Nevada State Legislative Advocacy Day.

Before branching out to visit legislative representatives and their staff, 105 members of the association assembled at Toiyabe Golf Club for an how-to session on meeting with members of the legislature and an overview of proposed bills that will impact employers.

Jason Gabhart, government relations advisor for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), presented a “Legislative Boot Camp” with tips on everything from security at the state capitol complex in Carson City to do’s and donts when meeting legislators or members of their staff.

“Don’t be discouraged if you’re only meeting with staff,” he said. They take a lot of notes that are passed on to the legislators. Their thoughts are vital to the legislators’ understanding about how a bill affects the real world.

He added that NNHRA members should remember that being a constituent is an advantage, as is the expertise they on business topics that they provide.

“You deal with these issues on a daily basis with real world implications,” Gabhart said. “This is your opportunity to educated them on what the concerns of HR are.”

Attorney S. Brett Sutton, with Sutton Hague Law Corporation, gave the HR professionals a rundown of bills that employers should be concerned about.

“It does make a difference,” Sutton told the audience. “Don’t under estimate the impact that you can have as business owners and HR directors.”

Minimum Wage

At the top of the NNHRA’s concern is three versions of an effort to raise the Nevada minimum wage to $15 per hour over several years.

Two bills — AB175 and SB 106 — propose to change the law governing Nevada’s minimum wage by statute. SJR-6 is a proposed constitutional amendment

Unlike most states, Nevada’s minimum wage is in the constitution, Sutton explained. Under the provision, the minimum wage in Nevada increases when the federal minimum wage increases.

The only other way to change it, Sutton said, is through the constitutional amendment process, which requires it to pass the legislature in two successive legislative sessions, then be put on a ballot for voters to decide.

As to AB 175 and SB 106?

“I don’t believe it is legal,” he said, adding that others disagree.

Whatever the methodology of changing the minimum wage, the result of such a drastic increase would be disastrous, Sutton said.

“When we raise the minimum wage, it increases unemployment,” he said of studies that show the correlation.

“Raising the minimum wage has a ripple effect through the entire pay scale.”

In a labor-heavy industry, every 10-cent increase in an hourly wage has a huge impact.

“It can be the difference in making a profit or not making a profit,” he said.

“If one small business goes out of business, it’s not that big of an impact. If a lot of small business go out of business, it makes a huge impact” on the economy.

Paid Sick Leave

Sutton noted that SB 196, which requires employers to provide three days of paid sick leave a year for every employee working 30 hours a week, seems benign at first glance — most employers already offer sick leave — but the way it’s written creates an administrative burden for employers.

Employers cannot put any restrictions on it, such as requiring doctors’ notes. It becomes like paid time off with no restrictions, and no advanced warning like other types paid time off.

Other details could create confusion making it hard for well-meaning companies to administer.

Treble Damages

AB 211 and SRJ-6 authorize a court to award treble (triple) damages to recover unpaid wages, whether the violation was intentional or not.

“There’s no exception for accidental error,” Sutton said.