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Western Cab Co. v. Eighth Judicial District Court of State of Nevada

Supreme Court of Nevada

March 16, 2017

WESTERN CAB COMPANY, Petitioner,
v.
THE EIGHTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT OF THE STATE OF NEVADA, IN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF CLARK; AND THE HONORABLE LINDA MARIE BELL, DISTRICT JUDGE, Respondents, and LAKSIRI PERERA; IRSHAD AHMED; AND MICHAEL SARGEANT, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, Real Parties in Interest.

         Original petition for a writ of mandamus or prohibition challenging the constitutionality and applicability of Nevada's minimum wage constitutional amendment. Petition denied.

          Hejmanowski & McCrea, LLC, and Malani L. Kotchka, Las Vegas, for Petitioner.

          Leon Greenberg Professional Corporation and Leon Greenberg, Las Vegas, for Real Parties in Interest.

          Mark R. Thierman, Joshua D. Buck, Michael Balaban, and Christian Gabroy, Reno, for Amicus Curiae Nevada National Employment Lawyers Association.

          Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman & Rabkin, LLP, and Don Springmeyer and Bradley Schrager, Las Vegas, for Amicus Curiae Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

          BEFORE THE COURT EN BANC. [1]

          OPINION [2]

          CHERRY, C.J.

         Article 15, Section 16 of the Nevada Constitution, commonly known as the Minimum Wage Amendment (MWA), guarantees a base wage to Nevada workers. Under the MWA, if an employer provides health benefits, it may pay its employees a lower minimum wage than if no such health benefits are provided. The MWA itself defines health benefits, and the applicable Nevada Administrative Code provisions define health insurance.

         In this petition for extraordinary relief, petitioner Western Cab Company (Western) asks this court to consider whether the MWA is federally preempted by either the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and whether the MWA is unconstitutionally vague. We hold that the MWA is not preempted by the NLRA because the MWA does not usurp the function of the National Labor Relations Board (Labor Board), nor does it intrude upon areas that the United States Congress intended to leave open to the free market, as minimum wage laws are within a state's police powers. The MWA is similarly not preempted by ERISA because it neither references nor connects with ERISA for preemption purposes.

          Further, the MWA is not unconstitutionally vague because an employer is sufficiently on notice of what benefits it must provide to qualify for the lower wage and the MWA does not promote arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement. Accordingly, we conclude that the MWA is valid and deny the instant petition for a writ of mandamus or prohibition.

          FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In 2004 and 2006, the people of Nevada passed Question 6 to amend the Nevada Constitution, adding the MWA. The MWA requires employers to pay their employees one of two possible wage rates, depending on whether the employer offers qualifying health benefits. Nev. Const, art. 15, § 16(A). The MWA allows for an exception to both of these requirements, however, if the employer and employees agree to a lower wage in clear and unambiguous terms through collective bargaining. Nev. Const, art. 15, § 16(B).

         In 2012, petitioner Western began requiring its drivers to pay for fuel directly instead of deducting fuel costs from the drivers' paychecks. Real parties in interest Laksiri Perera, Irshad Ahmed, and Michael Sargeant, who formerly drove cabs for Western, filed a complaint against Western alleging, among other things, that when the fuel costs are considered, drivers' wages fall below the constitutionally mandated minimum. Western moved to dismiss the complaint. It claimed, among other things, that not only should fuel costs not be considered when calculating the minimum wage, but the MWA itself is invalid because it (1) is preempted by the NLRA, (2) is preempted by ERISA, and (3) is unconstitutionally vague. The district court denied Western's motion on each of the aforementioned grounds, and Western now petitions this court for extraordinary writ relief.

          DISCUSSION

         The issues that we are asked to address are as follows: (1) whether the NLRA preempts the MWA; (2) whether ERISA preempts the MWA; (3) whether the MWA is void for vagueness; and (4) whether, assuming the MWA is valid, fuel costs should be factored into calculating minimum wage compliance. After concluding that our immediate review is warranted, we exercise our discretion to address the validity of the MWA and conclude that it is valid under all three challenges. We decline to exercise our discretion regarding the fuel-calculation issue because that issue depends upon facts that must be developed in the district court.

         Considering the facial challenges to the MWA serves the interests of judicial economy and streamlines this case, along with other MWA-related cases currently pending in the district courts

         "A writ of mandamus is available to compel the performance of an act that the law requires as a duty resulting from an office, trust, or station or to control an arbitrary or capricious exercise of discretion." Int'l Game Tech., Inc. v. Second Judicial Dist. Court, 124 Nev. 193, 197, 179 P.3d 556, 558 (2008) (footnote omitted); see NRS 34.160. "A writ of prohibition may be warranted when a district court acts without or in excess of its jurisdiction." Manuela H. v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, 132 Nev., Adv. Op. 1, 365 P.3d 497, 500 (2016); see NRS 34.320. The decision to entertain an extraordinary writ petition lies "within this court's discretion." Libby v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, 130 Nev., Adv. Op. 39, 325 P.3d 1276, 1278 (2014). This court generally refuses to issue an extraordinary writ when there is a "plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law." Oxbow Constr., LLC v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, 130 Nev., Adv. Op. 86, 335 P.3d 1234, 1238 (2014) (internal quotation marks omitted); see NRS 34.170; NRS 34.330.

          "Generally, we will not exercise our discretion to consider writ petitions challenging district court orders denying motions to dismiss, unless pursuant to clear authority under a statute or rule, the district court is obligated to dismiss an action... or an important issue of law requires clarification." Moseley v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, 124 Nev. 654, 658, 188 P.3d 1136, 1140 (2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). The policy behind our hesitation to entertain writ petitions that challenge such orders is to promote judicial economy and avoid "piecemeal appellate review." Wells Fargo Bank, NA. v. O'Brien, 129 Nev. 679, 680, 310 P.3d 581, 582 (2013). As a general principle, we practice judicial restraint, avoiding legal and constitutional issues if unnecessary to resolve the case at hand. Miller v. Burk, 124 Nev. 579, 588-89, 188 P.3d 1112, 1118-19 (2008). We may, however, use our discretion to consider writ petitions "when . . . judicial economy is served by considering the writ petition." Renown Reg'l Med. Ctr. v. Second Judicial Dist Court, 130 Nev., Adv. Op. 80, 335 P.3d 199, 202 (2014).

         The instant petition seeks reversal of a denial of a motion to dismiss. Although we typically deny such petitions, considering this petition would serve judicial economy and clarify an important issue of law. Three of the four substantive issues in the petition deal with invalidating the MWA. If the MWA is invalid, then ...


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