The minimum wage war being fought across the U.S. is supported by protesters with signs outside of businesses and by attorneys in courts alike. Last week, the Nevada Supreme Court issued a ruling interpreting the minimum wage statute for the state, which could have interesting implications for Silver State employees. The ruling was issued after Las Vegas business lawyers representing taxi cab companies lost their argument in court against two taxi drivers who argued that they weren’t being paid the state mandated minimum wage, according to this article in the Las Vegas Review Journal.
The Supreme Court justices ruled in a 4-3 decision that the taxi cab drivers were entitled to minimum wage, with at least one of the dissenting justices Ron Parraguirre warning against the decision’s potential to produce “absurd results,” such as casual babysitters being entitled to minimum wage. Justice Parraguirre was so concerned about this potential, he added a footnote to the ruling, making sure to exempt babysitters from the state minimum wage mandate.
How much validity do Justice Parragurirre’s anxieties about the ruling have? One of the Las Vegas business lawyers involved in the case was quick to point out that the minimum wage amendment excludes those under the age of 18, “so the likelihood of a rash of lawsuits by teenaged babysitters seems unlikely.” But not all babysitters are under 18; the “gray market” of side jobs for cash like babysitting is notoriously difficult to document and regulate, but for workers like live-in nannies, whose employers need to turn in tax forms at the end of the year, the situation could be more complicated.
The complexity and controversy over the decision is a result of the way the mandatory minimum wage statute was voter-approved by residents of Nevada, say Las Vegas business lawyers like Brent Huntley. The minimum wage constitutional amendment was passed by voters in 2004 and 2006, but the taxi cab company defendants in the lawsuit argued that a Nevada law creates an exception for taxi cab drivers being paid the minimum wage.
When it came down to it, the dissenting justices said that in this case, “the constitutional amendment was only intended to increase the minimum wage amount, not invalidate a long-standing state statute allowing cab drivers to be paid less than the minimum wage.” Still, the majority ruling will impact taxi companies by precipitating the need for cab companies to “step up and comply with the law,” said one of the Las Vegas business lawyers involved in the case.
The impact on the market is, by its very nature, difficult to predict and calculate, and it’s likely that there will always be individuals willing to do jobs for cash under the table for less than minimum wage requirements. But for the small businesses, restaurants and corporations wanting to keep operations above board, including taxi cab companies, it looks like they’re going to have to shell out more cash for their employees. Which means the cost of cab rides from McCarran International Airport just went up.