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Federal wage and hour lawsuits up 8% to record high, firm finds

November 24, 2015

Federal wage and hour lawsuits filed under the Fair Labor Standards Act reached a record high for the 12 months ending in September, employment law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP reported. The firm, citing data obtained from the Federal Judicial Center, reported 8,781 Fair Labor Standards Act cases were filed, up 7.6% from the preceding 12-month period.

The law firm expects more than 9,000 will be filed in 2016.

“The onslaught of wage and hour litigation continues at a record pace,” said Richard Alfred, chair of Seyfarth’s wage and hour litigation practice. “New federal labor regulations, the fight for a minimum wage hikes and an intense focus on independent contractor classification and joint employer status create a perfect storm for new lawsuits.”

Alfred cited several factors that will fuel the continued rise of FLSA lawsuits during the next 12 months:

  • The Department of Labor’s proposal last summer to revise the regulations on “white collar” exemptions has caused employees and their lawyers to pay more attention to wage and hour policies and practices, as it did the last time the regulations were amended in 2004. Alfred expects the new regulations to be issued in 2016 and to dramatically increase the minimum salary level for exempt employees, index that salary level (and the minimum salary level for the highly paid employee exemption) to provide further annual increases, and, possibly, to change the way employers must determine whether an employee’s duties qualify for exempt status.
  • Increased attention on independent contractor classifications and joint employer status
  • An apparent easing by some judges of standards for class certification in wage and hour lawsuits, which has resulted in one closely watched case against Tyson Foods at the United States Supreme Court
  • Talk of raising the minimum wage has increased focus on wage and hour laws and the availability of overtime pay

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