Nevada law does not require employers with less than 50 workers to provide sick leave. However, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mandates that Nevada companies with at least 50 employees provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave. And Nevada state law mandates that Nevada companies with at least 50 employers provide 40 hours of paid sick leave a year.
Many Nevada employers choose to provide their workers with paid sick leave that accrues the longer the employee works there. If the employee leaves the job without using this paid time off, the employer may have to pay the monetary value of the unused leave to the employee.
If an employer fails to give a worker their promised leave or pay, then the worker may either:
- file a claim with the U.S. Department of Labor (in cases of FMLA violations)
- file a claim with the Nevada Labor Commissioner (in some cases) or
- sue the employer in civil court
In cases that proceed to trial and the employee prevails, the court could order the employer to pay out Nevada punitive damages if the employer’s actions were malicious.
In this article, our Las Vegas Nevada labor law attorneys discuss:
- 1. What are workers’ sick leave rights in Nevada?
- 2. Is there paid sick leave?
- 3. How do I sue for sick leave?
- 4. How do I sue for sick leave pay?
1. What are workers’ sick leave rights in Nevada?
Nevada law does not mandate employers with fewer than 50 workers to offer sickness leave, either paid or unpaid. Therefore, employers may fire employees who cannot come to work because of illness, injury or medical appointments.
However, employers with at least 50 workers must provide 40 hours of paid sick leave a year. And the sick leave can be used for the employee to care for themselves or “immediate family” – including the employee’s child, spouse, domestic partner, sibling, parent, parent-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, stepparent, or someone the employee is a legal guardian of.1
In addition, federal law does require some employers to provide unpaid sick leave. The FMLA permits employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off — to care for themselves or a parent, spouse, or child — if the following three conditions are true:
- the employees work in a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius;
- the employees have worked at their job for at least 1 year; and
- the employees have worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous year
In short, large businesses (with at least 50 employees) cannot fire an eligible employee merely for taking 12 weeks of unpaid healthcare leave. Under the FMLA, these eligible employees should have their job waiting for them as long as they take no more than 12 weeks off to care for themselves or an immediate family member.
Note that the FMLA mandates up to 26 weeks of unpaid time off if the employee is caring for a military service member related to the employee as a:
- cousin, or
- next of kin
Also, note that the FMLA extends to maternity leave: New parents can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to bond with a new baby, even if no one is injured or ill with a health condition.2
2. Is there paid sick leave?
Many Nevada employers choose to grant paid leave to their employees for medical needs. Since there is no paid sick leave law requiring paid time off for employers with less than 50 workers, employers have broad control over how to implement the policy. For instance, employers may:
- cap the amount of paid leave employees can take,
- restrict the leave to certain illnesses and injuries,
- decline paying employees for accrued leave if/when they quit working or get fired (as discussed in the next subsection)
Employers who do provide paid time off for illness or injury typically spell out the details of their policies in employee handbooks or employment contracts. These employers are then obligated to abide by the terms of their own policies: They cannot promise paid leave but then renege on this benefit when an employee needs it.
Note that the Nevada state government does offer a paid sick leave policy to its employees.3 Also note that all Nevada companies that contract with the federal government are required to grant employees one (1) hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work on the government contract.
Through December 31, 2023, private employers in Nevada with at least 50 employees must provide two consecutive hours of paid leave for getting a COVID-19 vaccine shot offsite. (However, there is an exception to these coronavirus leave requirements for employers with less than two years of operation.)4
2.1. Accrued sick leave pay
Some Nevada employers also allow employees to gradually accrue paid leave the longer they work at the company. Similar to vacation pay, sick leave pay is a liability to employers:
If an employee takes all his/her paid leave, the liability lifts. But if an employee quits or gets laid off prior to using the paid leave, then the employer may have to pay out to the employee the value of that unused leave. (All of this depends on the specifics of the employer’s leave policies.)
One common method to determine sick leave pay is to multiply the unused leave hours the employee has remaining (if any) by his/her hourly wage. So if a $12-an-hour employee leaves his job with 12 hours of unused leave left, then the employer may have to give the employee an additional $144 ($12 wage times 12 hours).5
3. How do I sue for sick leave?
If an employer denies an FMLA-eligible employee unpaid sick leave, the employer may file a complaint online with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The Wage and Hour Department (WHD) of the DOL will look into the matter and should try to get the employer to comply with the FMLA and grant unpaid leave.
If an employer fires an employee for taking unpaid leave that the employee is entitled to, the employee can sue the employer for wrongful termination in Nevada.
4. How do I sue for sick leave pay?
Nevada employers who break their promise to provide sick leave pay to their employees face legal action. Employees may either
- (in certain cases) file an unpaid wage claim with the Nevada Labor Commissioner, or
- sue the employer in civil court
4.1. Filing a claim
If an employee is not successful in settling a leave pay dispute privately with the employer, the employee may then file a wage claim online with the Nevada Labor Commissioner. Note that this remedy is available only to employees who are owed back wages, not just sick leave pay.
The purpose of the Nevada Labor Commissioner is to investigate claims, preside over hearings, and attempt to get the offending employer to pay the employee everything he/she is owed. Note that employees may not seek back pay through claims older than two (2) years old.6
4.2. Suing the employer
Employers who do not wish to file a claim with the Nevada Labor Commissioner can instead file a lawsuit in civil court for breach of contract. Litigation is a lot more involved and complex than filing a claim, but the rewards are potentially greater. A winning lawsuit can potentially generate such compensatory damages as:
- sick leave pay plus interest,
- any unpaid back wages plus interest,
- attorneys’ fees, and
- court costs
Most significantly, the court may order large punitive damages if the employer knew it was wrong to withhold sick pay leave but did it anyway. Depending on the case, punitive damages can be up to three times the amount of compensatory damages or more.7
Work in California? Refer to our employment law attorneys’ article on California sick leave laws.
- See NRS 608; Bill requiring paid sick leave in Nevada private sector among 5 vetoed Thursday, News 4 NBC KRNV (June 1st 2017) (Governor Sandoval claimed that paid leave would have been a “substantial cost to businesses, particularly small businesses.”). Nevada Assembly Bill 190 (this new law does not apply to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement).
- 29 U.S.C. 2601; Nevada SB 312 (2019). Nevada AB 190 (2021) (“Except as otherwise provided in this section, if an employer provides paid or unpaid sick leave for the use of his or her employees, the employer must allow an employee to use any accrued sick leave to assist a member of the immediate family of the employee who has an illness, injury, medical appointment or other authorized medical need to the same extent and under the same conditions that apply to the employee when taking such leave.”). See also Coleman v. Court of Appeals (2012) 566 U.S. 30 and Hambsch v. United States (1989) 490 U.S. 1054.
- NRS 284.355.
- Executive Order 13706. Nevada Senate Bill 209.
- See Fair Labor Standards Act Advisor How are vacation pay, sick pay and holiday pay computed and when are they due?, Department of Labor; see, e.g., Pressler v. City of Reno, (2002) 118 Nev. 506, 50 P.3d 1096.
- See Forms for Employees, State of Nevada Department of Business & Industry Office of the Labor Commissioner.
- NRS 42.005.