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MDC Restaurants, LLC v. Eighth Judicial District Court of State

Supreme Court of Nevada

May 31, 2018

MDC RESTAURANTS, LLC; LAGUNA RESTAURANTS, LLC; AND INKA, LLC, Petitioners,
v.
THE EIGHTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT OF THE STATE OF NEVADA, IN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF CLARK; AND THE HONORABLE TIMOTHY C. WILLIAMS, DISTRICT JUDGE, Respondents, and PAULETTE DIAZ; LAWANDA GAIL WILBANKS; SHANNON OLSZYNSKI; AND CHARITY FITZLAFF, ALL ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL SIMILARLY SITUATED INDIVIDUALS, Real Parties in Interest.

          Original petition for a writ of mandamus or other extraordinary relief challenging a district court order concerning the interpretation of Nevada Constitution Article 15, Section 16.

          Clark Hill PLLC and Nicholas M. Wieczorek, Deanna L. Forbush, and Jeremy J. Thompson, Las Vegas, for Petitioners.

          Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman & Rabkin, LLP, and Bradley S. Schrager, Jordan J. Butler, and Don Springmeyer, Las Vegas, for Real Parties in Interest.

          Jackson Lewis P.C. and Elayna J, Youchah and Phillip C. Thompson, Las Vegas, for Amici Curiae Claim Jumper Acquisition Co., LLC; Landry's Inc.; Landry's Seafood House-Nevada, Inc.; Landry's Seafood House- Arlington, Inc.; Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurants, Inc.; Morton's of Chicago/Flamingo Road Corp.; and Bertolini's of Las Vegas, Inc.

          Littler Mendelson and Rick D. Roskelley, Kathryn B. Blakey, Roger L. Grandgenett, II, and Montgomery Y. Paek, Las Vegas, for Amici Curiae Briad Restaurant Group, LLC; Wendy's of Las Vegas, Inc.; Cedar Enterprises, Inc.; and Terrible Herbst, Inc.

         BEFORE THE COURT EN BANC.

          OPINION

          PICKERING, J.

         The Minimum Wage Amendment (MWA) to the Nevada Constitution allows an employer who provides health benefits to pay a minimum wage of one dollar per hour less than an employer who does not provide health benefits. In this case, we are asked to clarify what health benefits an employer must provide to qualify for this privilege. We answer that the MWA requires an employer who pays one dollar per hour less in wages to provide a benefit in the form of health insurance at least equivalent to the one dollar per hour in wages that the employee would otherwise receive. Because the district court applied the substantive requirements of NRS Chapters 608, 689A, and 689B, rather than the standard set forth in this opinion, we grant petitioners' request for extraordinary relief.

         I.

         A.

         The MWA is the result of a voter initiative called "The Raise the Minimum Wage for Working Nevadans Act." Posed as a statewide ballot question in 2004 and 2006, the measure declared that "[n]o full-time worker should live in poverty in our state" and that "[r]aising the minimum wage is the best way to fight poverty." Secretary of State, Statewide Ballot Questions, Question No. 6, p. 35 (2006), http://nvsos.gov/sos/home/ showdocument?id=206. It stated that "[l]iving expenses such as housing, healthcare, and food have far outpaced wage levels for Nevada's working families" and that a higher minimum wage would help "make sure the workers who are the backbone of our economy receive fair paychecks that allow them and their families to live above the poverty line." Id. After the measure passed in both 2004 and 2006, it became Article 15, Section 16 of the Nevada Constitution. In relevant part, the MWA reads:

Each employer shall pay a wage to each employee of not less than the hourly rates set forth in this section. The rate shall be five dollars and fifteen cents ($5.15) per hour worked, if the employer provides health benefits as described herein, or six dollars and fifteen cents ($6.15) per hour if the employer does not provide such benefits. Offering health benefits within the meaning of this section shall consist of making health insurance available to the employee for the employee and the employee's dependents at a total cost to the employee for premiums of not more than 10 percent of the employee's gross taxable income from the employer. These rates of wages shall be adjusted by the amount of increases in the federal minimum wage over $5.15 per hour, or, if greater, by the cumulative increase in the cost of living.

Nev. Const, art. 15, § 16(A).

         When the MWA went into effect in 2006, the minimum wage was $5.15 per hour if an employer provided health benefits, and $6.15 if an employer did not provide health benefits. See Nev. Const, art. 15, § 16(A). The MWA requires that those wages be adjusted according to standards articulated in the text of the MWA itself See id. Currently, as adjusted and annually announced by the Office of the Labor Commissioner, the upper-tier minimum wage is $8.25 per hour, and the lower-tier minimum wage is $7.25. See Press Release, State of Nevada Department of Business and Industry, Nevada's minimum wage and daily overtime rates will not increase in 2017 (March 30, 2017), http://labor.nv.gov/uploadedFiles/labornvgov/content/Wages/ 2017%20Minimum%20Wage%20Press%20Release.pdf. To pay an employee the lower-tier minimum wage, the employer must "provide[ 1 health benefits" to the employee. Nev. Const, art. 15, ...


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