Data collection bill brings disagreement over diversity quotas

A bill aimed at increasing data collection on diversity within the largest businesses in Nevada led to a flareup between members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday over possible effects on those firms.

The amended version of the bill, SB267, would require the Department of Taxation to annually survey corporations and government agencies with 1,000 or more employees about the diversity of their workforces, with a focus on women and women of color. Reports of that data, with personal information redacted, would then be made publicly available online.

Sen. Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) argued that the bill would take a step backwards by putting a focus on race and gender within the hiring process, and he said that the quest for quotas and diversity would be a violation of business rights and liberty. However, Sen. Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas) pointed out that the bill would only introduce a survey for existing workforces.

“I’m not sure how ‘survey’ got interpreted as ‘quota’,” Spearman said. “Is there something in the dictionary that I missed? Is there something in the thesauruses that I missed?”

Hansen said the bill would ultimately lead to quotas or other disciplinary actions for businesses that do not meet a certain level of diversity once the data is collected. 

The disagreement was ended quickly by committee Chair Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas).

“Our presenters have done an excellent job of explaining what this bill is and what this bill is not,” she said. “I appreciate that Sen. Spearman has subjected herself, once again, to this barrage of questions that I think has been largely not relevant to the bill.”

Spearman was joined during her presentation by Becky Harris, a Republican former state senator and the first female chair of the Gaming Control Board, and Jan Jones, the first female mayor of Las Vegas, who both argued that the bill could help promote diversity within the workplace and that the bill is not meant to punish businesses.

“This data should enable the development of best practices,” Harris said. “That can be shared to improve work environments throughout Nevada, as well as serve as an attraction and retention for top talent in Nevada.”

Despite agreement from the majority of those in the hearing that more data would be beneficial, the Nevada Resort Association, along with the Henderson Chamber of Commerce, opposed the bill, arguing that the sharing of the data collected could violate the privacy of businesses.

Misty Grimmer, a lobbyist for the association, said that much of the data the survey would collect is already submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by large companies and that data could potentially be shared with the state.

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2021 Legislature. Sign up for the newsletter here.