Two casino dealers were recently dealt a hand they didn't like in their complaint against their employer's tip-pooling policy: The Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the Nevada Labor Commissioner, not the courts, has the authority to hear their complaint about their employer's tip-pooling policy.
Nevada Casino Case on Tip-Pooling
In 2006, two casino dealers from the Wynn Las Vegas casino filed a class action lawsuit protesting the tip-pooling program at the casino. They allege the program violates a Nevada law prohibiting tip pooling when management shares in the division of tips. The dealers said they filed suit on behalf of more than 500 dealers affected by the program.
An executive from the casino stated the new policy was put in place to address the widening gap between dealer and table supervisor earnings. The casino made other changes to even out pay between the two groups, such as salary raises for supervisors, and bonuses for dealers.
Many dealers weren't pleased with the changes. In June 2006, casino dealers were making $100,000 per year in wages and tips. Their total income declined by 20 percent after the new policy started.
Where Do You Go to Settle a Legal Dispute?
More than one group of dealers is challenging the casino's tip policy. Dealers sought relief in more than one legal forum. First, Nevada's Labor Commissioner made an initial rejection of claims involving over 100 dealers, based on a wage claim by a dealer who sought payment of her unpaid tips.
Meanwhile, the other dealers filed the class action in state court. A scheduled formal hearing by the Commissioner was put on hold, waiting for the outcome in the court case.
In the end, Nevada's high court ruled that a class action in state court wasn't the right legal forum or authority for deciding the dealers' claims. The court found dealers didn't have a breach of contract claim because they were "at-will" employees. The Labor Commission has the power to decide the dispute; the formal hearing is the next step.
This case shows there might be more than one way to solve a legal problem. Sometimes there's disagreement, as in this case, on what the correct solution is. In some instances, you may have a "choice of forums," and more than one legal authority does have power to resolve your dispute. Seeking guidance from a employment law attorney can be the smartest action to take.
Labor Agencies - beyond the Courts
The court system isn't the only place to seek legal solutions. There's a wide array of administrative agencies handling many types of legal issues. Each state has its own agency which oversees matters affecting employment including making sure workers are paid fairly and in accordance with state wage and hour laws.
Certain federal agencies, such as the National Labor Relations Board and the Department of Labor, oversee compliance with federal laws affecting workers, including the right to form unions and the right to file unfair labor practice complaints.
Some agencies, both federal and state, deal with specific areas of law. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), oversees discrimination claims. There are tandem state agencies, too, dealing with the same type of law. State industrial commissions are another example, handling workers' compensation claims.
Most claims are resolved at the agency level. Court action is seen when an agency appeal process is exhausted, providing the last level of appeals.
Questions for Your Attorney
- I don't think I was paid for overtime. Whom do I complain to, and where do I start?
- I think I was fired because of my (race, color, creed, etc.) Whom do I complain to? Do I file a claim with my state agency or the EEOC?
- Can I get into legal trouble if I report my employer's antitrust activities?