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Reno Housing Authority: Lawsuit for Employee Benefits

Whenever an employer does not pay into Nevada’s workers’ compensation fund, this is typically cause for a criminal charge. Obviously this does not apply to independent contractors, but if the party initiating the contract qualifies as an employer, then it can be held liable for not paying into the workers’ compensation fund. The Reno Housing Authority (RHA) may be facing such a suit in the future.


History of the Reno Housing Authority

According to the RHA’s website , it was founded six years after the U.S. Public Housing Act was enacted. The purpose of the RHA was aligned with the U.S. Housing Act in that it provided housing to individuals with low and moderate income.  Currently the RHA owns a total of 764 units of public housing.  At this point, the RHA provides housing subsidies to over 2,500 low income families.


The RHA also provides employment to certain individuals living on its properties.  One such individual is in the middle of suing the RHA for its employment practices.  According to the Nevada Appeal, Joaquin Roces’ lawyer is seeking class action status in their lawsuit against the RHA. As a disabled veteran, Roces was a live-in employee of the RHA. While he lived in RHA housing he received what amounted to $3.47 hourly based on a 40-hour work week. After complaining to RHA that he was entitled to the U.S. minimum wage, he was allegedly evicted.


No Workers’ Compensation for Barter Employees

Roces’ lawyer has multiple claims attached to the lawsuit. Chief among them is tied to the Fair Labor Standards Act, but the allegations reach beyond that. The suit considers the employment of the RHA to be “an example of the underground economy. . . .while extracting labor. . . .” The suit claims that the barter system is used to avoid paying into workers’ compensation.  It is not clear whether or not the workers’ compensation allegation is central to the suit though.


According to the Washington Times Roces’ lawsuit is not expected to reach the trial stage before May of 2016, the outcome of which could have strong implications for other quasi-government agencies in Nevada. Any employment scenario that uses a barter system may come under scrutiny for not paying into workers’ compensation depending on the outcome of this case. As of right now if an employee was injured while working on a RHA property, while under a rent subsidy program, there would be no workers’ compensation benefits for that employee. According to the February 23, 2016 minutes of the RHA the lawsuit will be a point of discussion. Since the charges primarily focus on the Fair Labor Standards Act and Nevada’s minimum wage law, it is not clear whether or not the court will even be able to make a ruling on the need to pay into workers’ compensation.


If you are currently employed in Nevada via a similar barter system, you may not be able to claim workers’ compensation benefits. If you are unsure you should clarify this with your employer. If after that you are still unsure you should contact a licensed Nevada workers’ compensation attorney to determine what kind of options you possess if you are injured on the job.

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