NV Sup. Ct. defines “health benefits” for minimum wages

The Supreme Court of Nevada has held that state law 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.
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.
Employees brought the action on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated employees, alleging that their employers paid them the lower-tier minimum wage without providing sufficient health benefits under the MWA. The question at issue was whether there was some minimum quality or substance of health insurance that an employer must provide for the employer to pay the lower-tier minimum wage under the MWA.
The Supreme Court, declining to refer the issue to the Labor Commissioner for clarification, decided that common sense dictated that an employer who pays the lower tier minimum wage must offer health benefits that, at the very least, fill the one-dollar gap in value between the current amounts of $7.25 per hour lower-tier minimum wage and the $8.25 per hour upper-tier minimum wage. Therefore, “health benefits” must mean the equivalent of one extra dollar per hour in wages to the employee, but offered in the form of health insurance as opposed to dollar wages. This ensures that employees may receive an equal benefit under either tier of the MWA, in furtherance of the MWA’s stated purpose of fighting poverty. (MDC Restaurants v. The Eighth Judicial District of the State of Nevada, May 31, 2018.)

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