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Nevada Supreme Court Resolves Union Election Standard For Public Employees

Volume: 17 | Issue: 22
November 9, 2018

In a case that has been closely followed by Nevada’s public-sector employers, the Nevada Supreme Court resolved yesterday the standard for determining whether a labor union has won an election seeking to represent public employees. According to the Nevada Supreme Court, the standard requires that the union demonstrate it has the support of a majority of employees in the bargaining unit.

The case involved a long-standing battle in which the Teamsters Union attempted to challenge the incumbent union, the Education Support Employees Association (ESEA), by seeking to represent certain employees of the Clark County School District. After several elections were conducted, the Teamsters obtained a majority of the votes cast in the election by the employees, but not a majority of the overall employees in the bargaining unit.

The Local Government Employee-Management Relations Board (EMRB), the state agency charged with conducting elections for public-sector employees, changed the standard during these elections as to who would ultimately prevail. Specifically, the EMRB determined that the winner would be the union that received the majority of votes cast in the election, which was the Teamsters. The ESEA appealed the EMRB’s decision, arguing that the change in standard violated Nevada law. The issue was ultimately appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.

In its opinion, the Nevada Supreme Court held that the language of the Nevada statute at issue, NRS 288.160, was plain and unambiguous. According to the statute, for a union to represent public-sector employees, the union must demonstrate support by a "majority of the employees in a bargaining unit." The Court thus found that the EMRB’s change of the standard based on which union received the majority of votes cast in an election was in error. As a result, the Teamsters lost the election because it did not receive majority support of the employees in the bargaining unit.

This decision is particularly important for Nevada’s local government employers, as it raises the standard by which a labor union can prevail in an election. Unions seeking to represent public employees in Nevada can no longer win an election merely by receiving a majority of the votes actually cast in an election. Instead, unions must be able to show majority support among all of the proposed bargaining unit employees, which can be much more challenging where voter turnout is low in an election. It is important to note that this decision only affects Nevada’s public employers, not those in the private sector.

The case is State of Nevada Local Government Employee-Management Relations Board v. Education Support Employees Association, et al. If you have any questions about this case, please contact a KZA attorney.

KZA Employer Report articles are for general information only; they are not intended and should not be construed to be legal advice. Reading or replying to such articles does not establish an attorney-client relationship. In addition, because the subject matters and applicable laws discussed in Employer Report articles are often in a state of change and not always applicable to every type of business entity or organization, readers should consult with counsel before making decisions based on the same.