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Labor commissioner’s cases keep on coming

John Seelmeyer

The criminal charges filed by the state labor commissioner against an Incline Village employer are rare maybe even unique but that doesn’t mean he has a light workload.

Anything but.

“We’ve got a workload that’s always there,” Labor Commissioner Terry Johnson said a few days ago.

Media attention has been focused lately on the criminal charges Johnson filed against Robert DeMaio, president of Dot1Web in Incline village.

The commissioner claims DeMaio owes more than $400,000 in back wages to 67 employees.

The company shut its doors shortly before Christmas in 2002.

The criminal case is set for a pre-trial hearing in March.

Johnson said Dot1Web case appears to be the first time a labor commissioner has sought criminal charges in the state, but he said civil actions are commonplace.

When he was appointed by Gov.

Kenny Guinn in 1999, Johnson and his staff faced a backlog of 2,700 claims.

By early this year, the backlog had been reduced to about 500 claims an accomplishment that won Johnson’s office the Cashman Good Government Award from the Nevada Taxpayers Association last spring.

But claims keep coming, Johnson said, largely because Nevada continues to attract transient employers who don’t take time to understand Nevada’s labor laws.

It’s not uncommon, he said, for an employer to dock an employee’s wages for lost or damaged equipment a violation of state law unless the employee has given written authorization.

Others don’t understand Nevada’s requirement for overtime pay or fail to honor the state’ minimum wage.

And some simply stiff employees and leave the state perhaps with a threat to call immigration authorities if employees squawk.

In an effort to educate employers, Johnson and his staff launched a Web site laborcommissioner.com that provides answers to many frequently asked questions and provides details about the filing of claims by employees who believe they’re owed wages.

The Web site also details the state’s process for attempting to resolve disputes before they go to court.

Still, Johnson said his willingness to levy civil penalties on employers a power that wasn’t used by his predecessors have proven to be among his most effective tactics.

If a worker isn’t properly paid, the labor commissioner can require that his pay be continued for up to 30 additional days.

That, he said, has encouraged employers to resolve disputes more quickly.