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I have mentioned before that Nevada's labor laws protect the employers, not the employees. This last weekend I had further evidence of this. I suspect that casinos are out front in the list of those that take advantage.

Mary's bf Edward finally quit his job at the Palms, where they were overworking him on a low salary, to work at Treasure Island as a chef. The head chef talked to Edward before he started work and Edward said he needed to have two days off every week. The head chef said fine. Edward said he doesn't mind occasional overtime but did not want long shifts as a rule. The head chef said no problem, all will be well.

Edward had been scheduled for a twelve noon to ten pm shift, as I recall, for his first day. His supervisor called to ask if he could come in early instead and Edward said yes, and came in at ten. He worked until ten-thirty that night, twelve and a half hours. He looked at the upcoming schedule and saw that he was scheduled for 12-hour days for the next ten days, no breaks. He complained to his supervisor. She just shrugged and said "that's the schedule".

He went to the head chef, had a time getting to see him, left messages. When he finally did respond and Edward said this wasn't what I agreed to, the chef said he didn't care, that was the schedule.

Edward was hired on salary and because union rules do not apply to banquet chefs (which he was) there was no recourse. He was making, at this rate, a little over six dollars an hour.

He told Mary he would put in a week and see if things got better. Mary said "A week??" and said he should act now, while it is all fresh. So he went back, confronted the supervisor again, and when she would not budge he quit. He found hourly work at another casino and probably won't fall for the salary thing again, at least not in Vegas.

When Mary worked at a local casino a few years ago and called the state labor board to complain that she worked eight-hour days without a break, the woman said "Can you go to the bathroom?". Mary said "yes, sometimes." and the woman said, "That's a break." She called again later to say she was pregnant and her employer was forcing her to use chlorine to clean floors as part of her waitress job and she felt it was not safe for her baby. They didn't give a shit.

There are tons of stories like these. You would not guess, looking at these glitzy no-holds-barred casinos, that the employees work for shit wages and are overworked to boot. Tips don't solve the problem. Nor should they be expected to.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 30th, 2002 02:32 pm (UTC)
I don't know how they get away with this Actually I know how they get away with it -- it's called "the powers that be." But it really sucks -- I had no idea. Makes California look pretty good for workers. I guess I just assumed the laws were the same everywhere. We've even considered moving there because real estate is so much less and we thought we could make the same or more for what we do but this puts a different light on it. Here there's such a fear of lawsuits employers can't get away with anything. I guess in Vegas you just pay someone off and it goes away.
Apr. 30th, 2002 07:16 pm (UTC)
actually no...
The bitch of it is, you don't have to pay anyone off. The laws don't provide any protection. Presumably the theory is that if you don't like it, leave. There are plenty more where you came from.

It only gets worse. Many employers there will offer benefits after you've worked there three months. They then manage to finagle things so that it doesn't actually become active until more like six months. And retirement: the casinos that offer retirement benefits will lay people off just before they reach the time the benefits vest. Unlike the plan where I work, this isn't five years. It's more like fifteen or longer. So a person can work a few days short of fifteen years, get laid off and lose retirement benefits. I have heard many stories of this sort too.

I know there is a kind of union that is fighting for some basic kinds of rights for cocktail waitresses - the right to work with shoes that don't damage your feet and back. I doubt they've made much progress yet. I wonder if there are organizations keeping track. I may do some searching.

Overall, though, I was just stunned to find these things out when my daughters first started working there. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. We Californians do have a little bit going for us.
May. 1st, 2002 01:25 pm (UTC)
Re: actually no...
I guess what surprises me, being in the legal field, most law gets changed because of litigation and decisions that set the standard. That's why I'm surprised Nevada can get away with this.

That's sickening -- treating workers that way.
May. 1st, 2002 02:44 pm (UTC)
Re: actually no...
I looked up the Nevada labor laws and found a FAQ on the official government page. It included this:

Q. What kind of breaks do I get?

A. Rest periods are based on the total hours worked daily at the rate of 10 minutes for each four hours worked. An unpaid meal period of 30 minutes of uninterrupted time shall be authorized for an employee working a continuous period of 8 hours.
There are, of course, other questions as well, but from this it is clear that the woman who answered mary's question was simply not enforcing the law. The page refers to the state as a "work at will" state, something like that, meaning the employer holds the cards. I think the upshot is that even where there are relevant laws there is no enticement to enforce them.

Also, I think one can characterize different states by "personality". Nevada tends toward the libertarian point of view. California is generally liberal. Nevadans have never heard of environmental protection, for example - until now - when threatened with a nuclear waste dump. I think the Yucca Mountain proposal is mobilizing the state, actually. Who knows where it might lead?
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


Judith Lautner
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