Wage and Hour

New Report Examines Trends in Wage and Hour Class Action Suits, Settlements

Seyfarth Shaw LLP has released its 13th annual edition of the Workplace Class Action Litigation Report, which offers a complete guide to complex workplace-related litigation. In this year’s report, Seyfarth analyzed 1,331 class action rulings on a circuit-by-circuit and state-by-state basis to capture key themes from 2016 and emerging litigation trends facing U.S. companies in 2017.

Wage claims

“The U.S. Supreme Court decided several cases in 2016 that favored workers bringing class actions, which in turn portend significant challenges for employers facing these exposures in 2017,” said Seyfarth’s Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., co-chair of its Class Action Defense Group and author of the report. “While settlements were down for employment discrimination and [Employee Retirement Income Security Act] ERISA class actions and government enforcement litigation, settlement numbers were up for wage [and] hour class actions and collective actions.”

“With the change-over from a Democratic White House to a Republican one and the second most filings of wage [and] hour litigation over the past decade, 2017 is sure to present twists and turns for employers in dealing with these types of litigation issues.”

An overview of workplace class action litigation developments in 2016 reveals six key trends outlined in the Seyfarth report for 2017:

  1. Class action dynamics increasingly have been shaped and influenced by recent rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court. Over the past several years, the Supreme Court has accepted more cases for review—and issued more rulings—than ever before that have impacted the prosecution and defense of class actions and government enforcement litigation. Plaintiffs’ lawyers scored several significant victories in 2016 that will make class actions easier to prosecute and result in more certification orders.

    2. The monetary value of the top employment-related class action settlements declined significantly in 2016 after they reached all-time highs in 2014 and 2015. However, wage and hour settlements increased significantly.

    3. Federal and state courts issued more favorable class certification rulings for the plaintiffs’ bar in 2016 than in past years.  However, employers did better in decertification motions than in past years.

    4. Overall complex employment-related litigation filings were flat in 2016 after several years of increased filings. For the first time in over a decade, wage and hour filings declined.

    5. Wage and hour certification decisions in 2016 increased geometrically as compared to last year. This manifests the focus of the plaintiffs’ bar in wage and hour compliance issues.

    6. Government enforcement lawsuits brought by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission continued the aggressive litigation programs of both agencies, but by sheer numbers of cases, their enforcement activities were arguably limited in their effectiveness, at least when measured by lawsuit filings and recoveries compared to previous years.

For more information on the Workplace Class Action Litigation Report, please click here.