Yes, This Is the Year You Need to Worry About Wage and Hour Lawsuits

Wages pay wage and hour

By Eric B. Meyer

Unfortunately, I did not win last night’s Powerball jackpot. Thus, today, you get a substantive post about employment law, rather than a terse, “Thanks for reading, suckers!” send off.

Oh, but you’re still my suckers. I say that with peace and love.

But, here’s something to think about: Workplace class actions are booming!

Today, for the myriad retweets and mentions that they give me on Twitter, I want to give a timely shout out to my friends at Seyfarth Shaw’s Workplace Class Action Blog and share with all of you suckers that their 2016 Workplace Class Action Report is now available.

Five wage and hour trends for 2016

Honestly, I was too lazy to read the whole report. Fortunately, Sefarth Shaw has highlighted five (5) key trends, which I’ve summarized below and, at times, liberally copied:

  1. Increasing class-action scrutiny from the U.S. Supreme Court has helped shaped how Fair Labor Standards Act actions are asserted by lead plaintiffs on behalf of a number of similarly-situated employees.
  2. Employment-related class-action settlement amounts broke records in 2015. This will encourage similar actions in 2016.
  3. Courts issued more favorable class certification rulings in 2015 than in past years. In the areas of employment discrimination, wage & hour, and ERISA class actions, plaintiffs secured class certification 75 percent of the time.
  4. There were more wage and hour cases filed in 2015 than all other categories of lawsuits.
  5. The U.S. Department of Labor remains aggressive in pursuing wage and hour actions.

Consider also that, by as early as mid-2016, the Labor Department will raise the minimum weekly salary to qualify for an exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act from $455 a week ($23,660 per year) to $970 a week ($50,440 a year). There could also be additional changes to the exemption rules.

Act before your company goes boom (in a bad way)

Sure, you could wait until the Labor Department acts before you become make sure that your company’s house is in order. Or, you could re-read numbers 1-5 above and recognize that the plaintiffs bar isn’t waiting for the wage-and-hour cake to be iced before bringing dem lawsuits. Besides, any changes to the exemptions test won’t bear big fruit (i.e., big unpaid overtime and liquidated damages) for a year or so after the new rules take effect.

What I’m saying is this: print out this post, roll it up, go smack your decisionmakers in the head with it (not hard enough to cause a workplace injury; but with enough mmph to get their attention), and get cracking on an internal wage and hour audit.

Better you (and consider using outside counsel to help you) find those mistakes — and there will be mistakes, trust me — than learn about them when you’re served with a federal lawsuit.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.