Expert: Wage and hour class action suits dipped slightly in 2016, but expect 2017 uptick
- Class action suits numbered 8,304 in 2016, down from 8,954 in 2015. But more suits are expected in 2017, Gerald Maatman, a partner in Seyfarth Shaw LLP, told Bloomberg BNA. Maatman co-chairs the law firm’s class action litigation practice group.
- Although 2016 had fewer suits than 2015, the payouts were larger: The top 10 wage and hour class action suits totaled $695.5 million last year, jumping over $200 million from 2015. Employees filed suits against employers over minimum wage, overtime and other violations, says Bloomberg.
- Class action suits must be certified to proceed. But Maatman told Bloomberg that plaintiffs’ lawyers in wage and hour cases don’t have to spend money on expert witnesses or discovery to get a class action suit certified. The pressure, then, is on employers to settle in these cases, he said.
The Trump administration will likely try to repeal or amend some pro-worker wage and hour laws and/or or ease up enforcement under a Republican-led Labor Dept. Employers need only continue complying with the laws while closely observing the course Republicans will take.
Class-action settlements can be staggering in costs for employers, especially small businesses. Wage and hour suits often stem from managers within companies making separate — and sometimes disparate — decisions on hiring, promotions and wages, Gary Siniscalco, a senior counsel at San Francisco-based Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, told Bloomberg.
Employers might lower their risk of being sued by running internal audits to make sure there’s uniformity in wage and hour decisions without discrepancies.
Maatman told Bloomberg that courts grant conditional certification to wage and hour class action suits filed under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) 75% of the time. Employers should keep this statistic in mind.