By Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor
LAS VEGAS — In an 18-page decision, Federal Judge Robert C. Jones declared Thursday that a class action group of chauffeurs could no longer sue their employer, Bell Transportation of Las Vegas, directly for minimum wages under either the Nevada minimum wage laws nor could any of the many other employee groups exempted by statutes from the minimum wage law sue under the 2005 Minimum Wage Nevada Constitutional Amendment, although the constitution has no similar exemptions.
However, the court did rule that the chauffeurs could continue their lawsuit for unpaid wages under both the federal minimum wage and overtime laws, as well as suing for working without compensation under Nevada statutory law.
Mark R. Thierman, attorney for the chauffeurs suing Bell Limousine and other companies in Las Vegas and Reno, said he would seek special permission to appeal the decision because by allowing the federal claims to continue the Court had not technically rendered a final decision on the entire matter.
Thierman said that the Court’s decision harms every working person in the state of Nevada by forcing all minimum wage and overtime claims into the already clogged, overworked, and underfunded labor commissioners’ office, where there are only three employees to process these claims and the Labor Commissioner refuses to take cases on a class wide basis. Worse yet, said Thierman, the judge gutted the constitutional amendment, essentially saying a prior statutory exception to the minimum wage applied to the constitutional amendment which has no such exceptions.
“As everyone learnt from high school civics” said Thierman, “the Constitution trumps the prior statutes, not the other way around.”
Thierman said he would have to seek special permission to appeal because by ruling in the chauffeurs favor on the federal minimum wage and overtime claims, the Court had not made a final decision on the entire case. “Under this decision, Nevada has no state minimum wage laws anymore, only federal law,” Thierman said.
Ironically, the decision does not help the limousine services either, since the judge did rule that they must pay for all hours worked as well as paying chauffeurs at the federal minimum wage and federal overtime rates. The judge further ruled that the case could be amended to include other limousine companies owned by the same employer Whittlesea-Bell Corp.
In addition, to Bell Transportation, the defendant owns Presidential Limousine of Las Vegas and Bell Limousine of Reno. Other chauffeurs have sued AWG (Allen Wexler Group) and Executive Limousine for the same things, including failure to pay for all hours worked, failure to pay overtime, and failure to pay minimum wages under both Nevada and federal law.