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Same-Sex Marriage and Nevada Employment Law

Same-Sex Marriage and Nevada Employment Law

Nevada has given legal recognition to same-sex domestic partnerships since 2009, and same-sex marriages since 2014. The state’s recognition of same-sex marriages followed the ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a landmark case that declared Nevada’s state Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Sevcik v. Sandoval, 911 F. Supp. 2d 996 (D. Nev. 2012), reversed and remanded sub nom. Latta v. Otter, 771 F.3d 456 (9th Cir. 2014). Since July 1, 2017, the state’s marriage statute, NRS 122.001 et seq., has been gender-neutral, ensuring that same-sex marriages are given the same treatment as marriages between opposite-sex couples.

Employment discrimination is still a problem

Even though Nevada’s marriage laws explicitly authorize same-sex marriage, workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is still a problem. Nevada law gives people in same-sex marriages powerful legal tools for responding to an employer’s discriminatory behavior. Earlier this year, Senate Bill 188 added “gender identity or expression” and sexual orientation throughout the state’s anti-discrimination laws, including the employment discrimination law of NRS 613.330, giving them the same kinds of protections as religion, color, sex, race, disability, age, and national origin.

Although an employer still can base employment decisions on protected features where it is “a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation” of the employer’s business, NRS 613.350, jobs that are reasonably predicated upon an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity are likely to be vanishingly rare.

Employers must apply the same standards to all married people

An employee’s marriage status is notably absent from the protections in NRS 613.330, but it seems unlikely that an employer could successfully escape liability for discrimination by arguing that its decision to fire an employee was based on the employee’s decision to marry. To work, an employer would need to have a policy against all of its employees getting married. If such a rule only applied to LGBT employees, it probably would be unlawful.

And that is perhaps the most important legal protection that same-sex marriage now enjoys in the Nevada workplace. An employer’s policies and actions with respect to marriage cannot discriminate between different kinds of married couple on the basis of any protected feature. Same-sex couples enjoy the same right to work without discrimination as mixed-race couples, or couples from different religions.

An important distinction between same sex marriage and domestic partnerships

Nevada’s domestic partner law allows two people of any gender to enter into a civil union. Although domestic partners enjoy most of the legal benefits of marriage, the law specifically allows employers to not extend health care benefits to domestic partners of employees. NRS 122A.210. There is no equivalent law with respect to partners in a same-sex marriage. In fact, insurers are prohibited from discriminating against lawfully married same-sex couples, and must offer them the same coverage as are offered to opposite-sex couples.

We are ready to help Las Vegas employees protect their rights

At GGRM we believe that all Nevadans deserve equal treatment, and that workers who suffer from unlawful discrimination should be compensated for the hardships they endure. If you would like to speak to an attorney about how Nevada’s laws protect employees who are in same-sex marriages, call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our contact page.