Las Vegas Sun

November 19, 2018

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Limo drivers’ suit over wages gets class action status

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Steve Marcus

A Bell Trans limousine heads to a passenger area at McCarran International Airport.

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Bell Transportation limousines are shown at McCarran International Airport Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009.

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A Bell Transportation limousine driver talks to passengers after picking them up at McCarran International Airport on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009.

A federal judge has granted class certification status to a group of Nevada limousine drivers suing the state's largest limo company, claiming Bell Trans failed to pay drivers for time spent on the job while they were not transporting passengers.

The landmark case marks a test of Nevada's complex wage and hour laws by drivers, who have historically been paid according to how productive they are in obtaining fares rather than for hours worked.

Since the recession, drivers of taxis and limos in Las Vegas have taken home slimmer paychecks that in some cases fall below minimum wage, triggering a rash of complaints with the Nevada Labor Commissioner, as well as the Bell Trans suit, filed last year.

While limo drivers aren't entitled to minimum wage under state law, the drivers may pursue a claim that their employer violated the law by not paying drivers at all for time worked, U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones said in his order Tuesday.

Drivers say this includes time spent washing and maintaining their vehicles, retrieving their limos at the beginning of their shifts, driving to the airport and waiting for fares.

They say some transportation companies, seeking to avoid minimum wage disputes amid the recession, are firing drivers who can't find enough rides to bolster fares that are split with employers.

Judge Jones said a class action encompassing more than 1,000 Bell Trans drivers would be the most efficient way to dispose of the case.

"A class action is far superior to individual litigation in a case such as this one, where all of the putative class members’ claims involve facts that are virtually identical in substance, and no putative class member will recover enough to justify bringing his own case," he wrote.

Jones dismissed some of the drivers' claims in June, siding with Bell Trans' argument that limo drivers don't have a right to sue for minimum wages, as they are exempt under state law.

Even after Nevada voters in 2006 approved a constitutional amendment to raise the state's minimum wage, drivers couldn't sue for minimum wage because the amendment wasn't intended to remove pre-existing minimum wage exemptions built into state law for limo and taxi drivers.

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