CARSON CITY — A proposal to change Nevada’s overtime law was touted Wednesday by employers as a way to give businesses and workers more flexibility, but critics said it would subject employees to long hours without adequate compensation and jeopardize workplace safety.
Existing law requires employers with some exceptions to pay workers time and a half for hours worked in excess of eight hours within a 24-hour period. The law does not apply to workers covered under collective bargaining agreements where such work rules are negotiated.
Under Senate Bill 193, which was heard in the Senate Commerce, Labor and Energy Committee, overtime provisions would not kick in until 40 hours are worked within a week.
State Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, said Nevada is one of three states that require overtime after eight hours, and the only state that has the 24-hour rule.
Settelmeyer gave examples of restaurant workers who might work a dinner shift and want to pick up more hours the next morning but can’t because it would require overtime pay.
Backers of the bill — contractors, small-business groups and restaurant owners — said changing the law would give employees flexibility to work more hours and juggle their shifts to accommodate family and other obligations. The measure is also supported by the Nevada Taxpayers Association.
But critics said it would expose mostly low-wage earners to potential abuse by employers.
State Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-Las Vegas, noted all the supporters were employers.
“I don’t see any employees here,” Atkinson said. “They’re not begging for this bill. So who is this benefiting?”
Labor representatives raised questions about workplace safety and the potential for employers to take advantage of workers.
“Not everyone is a good employer,” said Jack Mallory, representing the Southern Nevada Builders and Construction Trades Council. He suggested any discussion about the eight-hour overtime rule should include minimum time off between shifts.
State Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, was concerned service workers would be disproportionately affected.
Culinary Local 226 Political Director Yvanna Cancela shared the concern, saying low-wage earners would be affected the most by the bill. She added that full-time opportunities could be reduced because employers could work part-time staff up to the 40-hour threshold and avoid paying overtime.
“The word flexibility has been thrown around a lot,” Cancela said, adding employers would benefit most.
The committee took no action Wednesday.