State employee union sues Nevada over longevity pay program

A memo issued last week would exclude unionized state employees from eligibility for the new longevity pay bump.
Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
LegislatureState Government

One of the largest state employee unions in Nevada took legal action against the state on Monday over a move last week to exclude certain employees from a recently revived retention pay program, a decision they allege violates state law. 

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 4041 alleged in a Friday statement that the plan from Gov. Joe Lombardo’s administration would “unlawfully” exclude thousands of state workers from longevity pay, an incentive program designed to boost salaries for some of Nevada’s longest-tenured employees. 

That’s because a memo issued this week by the state Department of Administration limits eligibility for longevity pay to unclassified employees and employees not in a bargaining unit covered under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). 

The union now seeks to compel the Lombardo administration to apply longevity pay to all state employees. In a formal petition for a writ of mandamus filed in Carson City District Court on Monday, the union’s lawyers argued that the law in question makes no distinction between state employees covered by a CBA and those who are not. 

“Yet the defendants fully intend to deny employees covered under a CBA the longevity payments that are required to be paid to each of them under the law,” the filing said. 

As with AFSCME’s first lawsuit against the state, the union is being represented by attorney Nathan Ring, the spouse of Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) and a past representative of several other Nevada unions. 

The move from AFSCME — which represents more than 17,000 state workers in Nevada across four bargaining units, including maintenance and custodial staff, engineers, scientists and certain office and health care workers — marks the second time this year that the union has sparred with Lombardo in the wake of the 2023 legislative session. 

In September, AFSCME took legal action against Lombardo over his veto of a bill, SB440, that would have funded a $25 million award from 2021 granted to certain employees represented by AFSCME through an arbitration process that was resolved after that year’s legislative session. The case is still pending.

Authorized as part of AB522 — also known as the state worker pay bill, one of the state’s five major budget bills — the longevity pay program would boost pay for state workers with eight or more years of continuous service. The move functionally reboots a program axed by lawmakers in 2015

The push to reinstate longevity pay came as one of many individual policies aimed at boosting state employee compensation — including historic cost-of-living adjustment raises and additional one-time retention bonuses — amid soaring vacancy rates across state government. 

The specifics of those policies, however, became a point of friction between Lombardo and legislative Democrats, who frequently clashed over what kind of new incentives should have been included in the final budget. 

A spokesperson for Lombardo’s office declined a request for comment. 

Update: Nov. 9, 2023 at 10:55 a.m. — This story was updated to include details from the court filing made this week by AFSCME.

Correction: Nov. 3, 2023 at 3:20 p.m. — An earlier version of this story misstated the eligibility for longevity pay applying only to unclassified employees and employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Instead, the eligibility applies to those employees not covered by a CBA.


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