Nevada Wrongful Termination Laws

Learn if you've been fired illegally, whether you're protected under Nevada and federal labor laws, and what you can do about it.

If you've recently lost your job, you might be wondering whether you have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. In Nevada, as in other states, employees work at will. This means an employee can generally be fired at any time and for any reason, or for no reason at all.

But there are some exceptions to the at-will rule. For example, if your Nevada employer fires you for discriminatory reasons, in violation of an employment contract, or in retaliation for exercising your rights, you may have a legal claim against your employer.

What If You Were Illegally Fired During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

A shocking number of Americans have lost their jobs as a result of the economic downturn stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. But what if you were fired during the pandemic? Depending on the reason you were dismissed, you might have a valid claim for wrongful termination. For instance, it would generally be illegal for your employer to fire you:

  • in retaliation after you complained about or reported unsafe working conditions, such as inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing, or cleaning
  • for refusing to work because you had a reasonable belief that you faced an immediate risk or death of serous physical harm due to unsafe working conditions
  • for refusing to violate a legal shelter-in-place order
  • for taking family or medical leave under state or federal law, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (discussed below)
  • because you have a preexisting condition (including your age) that makes you more vulnerable to the coronavirus, or
  • because you filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits for COVID-19.

(Learn more about wrongful termination in the context of COVID-19.)

Every state's laws on wrongful termination are different. This article covers some of the common legal grounds you might have for suing your Nevada employer for wrongful termination. But it's not a comprehensive list of Nevada employment rights, which can change as courts issue new rulings and legislators pass or modify laws. To find out the full extent of your legal claims, speak to an experienced Nevada employment lawyer.

Discriminatory Firing

Under federal law, it is illegal for an employer to fire an employee based on a protected characteristic. Federal law prohibits employers from firing employees based on race, color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy), religion, age (if the employee is at least 40), disability, citizenship status, or genetic information. However, only employers with a minimum number of employees must comply with these laws. Most types of discrimination are prohibited once an employer has at least 15 employees. However, for age discrimination the minimum is 20 employees, and for citizenship status discrimination the minimum is four employees.

Nevada law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age (40 and older), disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. Nevada employers must comply with these laws if they have at least 15 employees.

These laws also make it illegal for an employer to retaliate against you for asserting your rights. For example, if you complain to your company's HR department that you believe you were passed over for promotion because of your ethnicity, your employer may not discipline or fire you for your complaint. Likewise, your employer cannot fire you for participating in an investigation of a discrimination complaint (no matter who made the complaint), testifying in court, or making other efforts to stop discriminatory practices.

Before filing a discrimination or retaliation lawsuit, you must file a complaint with the appropriate government agency. The Nevada Equal Rights Commission (NERC) investigates and enforces state laws prohibiting discrimination in employment; the NERC has offices in Las Vegas and Reno. In many cases, state fair employment practices agencies will record your complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that enforces federal antidiscrimination laws. However, you should check to make sure. If not, you may also have to file a complaint with the EEOC.

Breach of Employment Contract

If you have an employment contract promising you job security, you may not be an at-will employee. In Nevada, an employment contract may be written, oral, or implied. In the first two types of contracts, your employer makes oral or written promises not to fire you for a certain period of time without good cause. In an implied contract, your employer acts in a way that creates a reasonable expectation that you would continue to be employed. For example, if your employee handbook states that employees will be fired only after certain procedures are followed, you may have an implied contract. If you have an employment contract, and your employer fires you without good cause, you have a legal claim for breach of contract.

Nevada Wage and Hour Laws and Issues

As of July 1, 2020, Nevada employees are entitled to a minimum wage of $8 per hour if their employers provide qualifying health benefits and $9 per hour if not. (Each of those amounts will increase by 75 cents a year until they reach $11/$12 an hour in July 2024.)

Under federal and state law, nonexempt employees who work more than 40 hours a week are eligible for overtime. (Generally, professionals, executives, and administrative employees are exempt from overtime rules.) Nevada law also requires employers to pay employees overtime when they work more than eight hours in a day, but only if they make less than 1.5 times the state minimum wage.

Employees in Nevada are entitled to an unpaid meal break of 30 minutes for every eight continuous hours of work. Employees are also entitled to a paid ten-minute rest break, in the middle of the work period if practicable, for each four hours (or major fraction of four hours) worked. In addition, under federal law, employers must pay employees for breaks of 20 minutes or less and for any time during which employees must perform any work, even if the employer characterizes that time as a "break."

It is illegal for Nevada employers to threaten or intimidate employees in order to prevent them from testifying in a wage proceeding, or to fire or retaliate against employees who provide such testimony.

Time Off Work in Nevada

Employers may not discipline or fire workers for exercising their rights under state and federal law to take time off work for certain civic obligations and personal responsibilities. In Nevada, these rights include:

  • Military leave. Under federal law, employees have the right to take up to five years of leave to serve in the military, with the right to be reinstated when they return to work. (This law also prohibits discrimination against employees based on their military service, protects employees from discharge without good cause for up to one year after they return from military duty, and provides other protections; see Nolo's article on taking military leave for more information.) Nevada law protects members of the state National Guard from employment discrimination. Nevada also prohibits employers from discharging an employee because the employee is called to active duty or takes time off to assemble for training, participate in field training, or otherwise meet as required for ceremonies, maneuvers, and other military duties.
  • Jury duty. In Nevada, employees are entitled to unpaid leave for jury service, and they may not be required to use paid leave for these purposes. Employers may not recommend or threaten termination of employees called for jury duty, nor may they dissuade or attempt to dissuade employees from serving as jurors. Employees called to jury service cannot be required to work within eight hours before jury duty or, if the employee's jury duty lasts four hours or more (including travel time to and from the court), between 5 p.m. that day and 3 a.m. the next day. Employers who fire or penalize employees for jury duty may be subject to criminal sanctions and special damages in a wrongful termination lawsuit.
  • Voting. If it is impractical for an employee to vote before or after work, the employee is entitled to paid leave to vote. Employees may take one hour off if the polling place is within two miles of work; two hours off if the polling place is more than two miles but not more than ten miles away; and three hours if the polling place is more than ten miles away.
  • Family and medical leave. Nevada employees are protected by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks off, unpaid, every year for a serious health condition, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, to care for a new child, or to handle certain practical matters arising out of a family member's military service. Employees can take up to 26 weeks off in a single year to care for a family member who is seriously injured while serving in the military. Employees who take FMLA leave must be reinstated to the same position once their leave is over.
  • Domestic violence and school activities. Nevada law requires employers to provide qualifying employees with unpaid time off for certain reasons related to domestic violence. Also, parents may take up to four hours of unpaid time off each year to attend a child's school conferences and activities. To learn more, see Nolo's article on Nevada Family and Medical Leave.
  • Paid leave (PTO). As of January 2020, private employers in Nevada with at least 50 employees must provide a certain amount of paid leave to their employees, including part-time workers, based on the number of hours they work.

Other State Employment Claims

  • Workers' compensation. Employers may not retaliate against employees who assert their rights under workers' compensation laws.
  • Workplace safety. Employers are prohibited from firing employees for filing complaints, testifying in hearings, or instituting legal proceedings regarding safety violations.
  • Whistleblowing. Employers cannot fire employees for reporting illegal activity to a government agency, nor can employers fire employees for refusing to participate in illegal activity.
  • Off-duty conduct. Employers may not discriminate against employees who use lawful products, while off-duty and away from work.

What to Do Next

If you think you were fired illegally, talk to a Nevada employment lawyer. A lawyer can help you sort through the facts and assess the strength of your claims. A lawyer can also inform you of other state or local claims that you may have in addition to those listed above. Whether you want to try to get your job back, negotiate a severance package, or sue your employer in court, a lawyer can walk you through your options and help you decide how best to proceed.

Related Content

State Job Termination Laws

Learn if you have been wrongfully terminated and if you are protected under your state's labor laws.

Remedies Available for a Wrongful Termination Claim

Find out what a court can award if you win a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Is Forced Retirement Legal?

With a few exceptions, employers may not adopt a mandatory retirement age.

Collecting Unemployment After Being Fired

If you're fired for misconduct, you won't be eligible for unemployment benefits.

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