CARSON CITY, Nev. (Legal Newsline) - The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled in a 4-3 decision that a district court erred in holding that the Minimum Wage Amendment did not entirely replace the existing statutory minimum wage scheme, which exempts taxicab drivers from its minimum wage provisions.
Christopher Thomas and Christopher Craig brought an action in district court against Nevada Yellow Cab Corporation; Nevada Checker Cab Corporation; and Nevada Star Cab Corporation. They claimed damages for unpaid wages pursuant to Article 15, Section 16 of the Nevada Constitution, a constitutional amendment that revised Nevada's then-statutory minimum wage scheme, formerly known as the Minimum Wage Amendment.
Justices Michael Cherry, Kristina Pickering, James Hardesty and Michael Douglas voted in the majority, with Cherry authoring the opinion.
Justices Ron Parraguirre, Mark Gibbons and Nancy Saitta dissented, with Parraguirre authoring a dissenting opinion.
The district court held that the Minimum Wage Amendment did not entirely replace the existing statutory minimum wage scheme under NRS 608.250, which in subsection 2 excepts taxicab drivers from its minimum wage provisions.
"We hold that the district court erred because the text of the Minimum Wage Amendment, by clearly setting out some exceptions to the minimum wage law and not others, supplants the exceptions listed in NRS 608.250(2)," the Thursday opinion states. "Accordingly, we reverse the district court's dismissal order and remand for further proceedings on appellants' minimum wage claims."
Thomas and Craig brought a class action against the taxicab companies, arguing they and similarly situated taxicab drivers had not been paid pursuant to constitutional minimum wage requirements during the course of their employment.
The complaint was based on the Minimum Wage Amendment, which was proposed by initiative petition and approved and ratified by the voters in 2004 and 2006, and which raised the state minimum wage to a rate higher than the minimum imposed in Nevada by the Labor Commissioner.
The taxicab companies moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the Minimum Wage Amendment did not eliminate the statutory exception for taxicab drivers under NRS 608.250(2)(e).
Following a hearing, the district court concluded that the Minimum Wage Amendment did not repeal NRS 608.250 and that the statutory exceptions could be harmonized with the constitutional amendment.
Accordingly, the district court ruled that NRS 608.250(2)(e) expressly excludes taxicab drivers from Nevada's minimum wage statutes and granted the taxicab companies' motion to dismiss the complaint.
Thomas and Craig then appealed to the Supreme Court of Nevada.
"The text of the Minimum Wage Amendment, by enumerating specific exceptions that do not include taxicab drivers, supersedes and supplants the taxicab driver exception set out in NRS 608.250(2)," the majority opinion states. "We accordingly reverse the district court's dismissal order and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."
In his dissent, Parraguirre stated that he would affirm the district court's order dismissing Thomas' complaint because the Amendment was only intended to increase the minimum wage amount.
"We presume that a statute is constitutional, and a party who challenges the constitutionality of a statute must clearly show its invalidity," the dissenting opinion states.
"We must presume that implied repeal was not intended and the exemptions set forth in NRS 608.250(2) are constitutional," the dissenting opinion states. "Because the Amendment was neither intended nor understood to do more than raises the minimum wage amount, I would conclude that these presumptions have not been rebutted and would affirm the district court's order of dismissal."
Nevada Supreme Court case number: 61681
From Legal Newsline: Kyla Asbury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.