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The Legislature on the eleventh day of the 31st Special Session in Carson City on Saturday, July 18, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Gov. Steve Sisolak is inserting himself into the politically perilous fight over legislation that would guarantee the rights of laid-off gaming and tourism industry workers to return to their jobs, putting forth an amendment that would generally exempt any business with fewer than 30 employees.

The proposed amendment to SB386, adopted by lawmakers Friday evening ahead of an expected floor vote in the Assembly, intends to exempt small businesses that pre-pandemic employed 30 or fewer workers from being affected by the so-called “Right to Return” legislation. 

The amendment targets any business entity that directly or indirectly exerted control over the “wages, hours, or working conditions” of 30 or more employees — meaning it will likely exempt small restaurants and vendors operating in casinos from having to comply with the hiring requirements in the bill.

Republican members of the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee, during a hearing Thursday, worried that small businesses were being treated the same as large gaming operations. The bill was passed out of committee on a party-line vote.

Gaming interests and the Culinary Union struck a deal on the high-profile legislation earlier this week, agreeing to limit the scope of the bill and exempting certain employee classes including managers and stage performers. The Nevada Resort Association agreed to take a neutral position on the bill in return for those concessions, though not all casino operators are on board with the proposed legislation.

SB386 would allow workers in the gaming and travel sectors the right to return to their jobs, covering those workers laid off after March 12, 2020, and who were employed for at least six months in the year before the governor’s first COVID-19 emergency declaration.

The legislation is similar to at least a half-dozen other bills backed by the labor organization’s parent union, UNITE HERE, in other states. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed legislation last month requiring hospitality and service industry employers to offer new positions to laid-off workers. 

Lawmakers in the Senate voted along party lines, 12-9, early Wednesday evening to approve the “Right to Return” bill.

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