Vegas Chauffeurs Still Wringing Bell

Posted on August 12, 2009 by - Also by this author

SETBACKS & COMEBACKS: Las Vegas chauffeurs continue to battle Bell Transportation in court over pay issues seeking court approval to send the case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Nevada’s minimum wage increased last month. The mere fact that chauffeurs are paid minimum wage indicates that Bell acknowledges the chauffeurs are indeed employees and not contractors. Under the Nevada two-tier minimum wage system, employees are entitled to receive at least $5.85 per hour, or $7.55 for workers whose employers don’t offer health insurance plans that qualify under state law.
That is, unless you are a chauffeur. As I previously reported, a federal judge issued a ruling in a class action lawsuit filed by Bell chauffeurs. The judge determined chauffeurs cannot legally sue for minimum wages. They should, in my opinion, be entitled to minimum wage at the very least for all the work they perform, whether it is waiting at the airport, driving to a hotel, or even pumping gas in a company-owned limousine.
Bell has experienced a rash of lawsuits and labor claims in both of its Las Vegas and Reno operations. My tipster in Reno tells me the chauffeurs are dropping off like flies due to poor working conditions and a severe shortage of work. Perhaps the final bell is soon to toll for Bell, Nevada’s largest limousine company. Unlike most limousine companies that are mandated to provide service on a pre-arranged basis only, Bell chauffeurs actually troll for prospective passengers during their assigned shifts. Except, they don’t get paid for their efforts. They get paid only while providing service.
In a ridiculous rebuttal, Bell cites state law acknowledging that chauffeurs are “like” independent sales representatives who should be compensated based on productivity rather than receiving a guaranteed hourly wage, like most workers.
The chauffeurs say they’re entitled to the same pay most other workers receive, and say that sitting in a car in front of a hotel waiting for someone to engage their service IS work at the pleasure of the company and they should be paid just the same as an office worker waiting for an assignment or even a fast food cashier waiting for the next customer to walk in the door.
I tend to agree. If I am driving your limousine because you assigned me to drive it and you send me out driving around the city looking for someone who needs a limo, I am drumming up business for the company and the company should pay me for my efforts. If a chauffeur does not hustle up enough rides, two things can happen. The first is the employee doesn’t have enough money to pay his bills or worse can be fired for “lack of production,” according to chauffeurs working at Bell. In a global tourist city suffering from a severe shortage of tourists, it is a no-win situation for the chauffeurs.
For some reason, those folks at Bell will not return my phone calls. Likewise, when the Las Vegas Sun newspaper tried to get information, Bell’s attorney, Norman Kirshman, declined to comment. Perhaps the cat has their tongues.

— Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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