Employment Class Action Settlements Set Record in 2015 Amidst Tidal Wave of FLSA Lawsuits

Settlements in all types of workplace class actions in 2015 reached an all-time high of $2.48 billion according to the 12th Annual Workplace Class Action Litigation Report published by Seyfarth Shaw, a law firm representing employers in the defense of workplace lawsuits. The report identifies and analyzes key trends and settlements from 2015 in workplace litigation, including lawsuits under the FLSA, ADEA, ERISA, Title VII and various other laws.

The report details a number of interesting statistics concerning the fight against wage theft by law firms like ours:

Filings Up – There is a “tidal wave” of case filings related to wage theft with “no end in sight.”  Over the past 15 years, wage & hour filings have increased over 450%. Almost 1000 more FLSA lawsuits were filed in 2015 than 2014 (8,954 vs. 8,066).

Settlements Up: The total dollars in the top 10 settlements for wage & hour class action settlements more than doubled from the 2014 numbers after 2 years of declining settlement totals.

Geographies – The epicenters of wage & hour litigation are the Ninth and Second Circuits, which led with the most conditional certification motions granted.  Pennsylvania is listed as one of the seven states that stood out for filings of these lawsuits in state court rather than federal court.

The report also took a look at trends for the future of workplace class action in 2016. Among those identified were:

Proposed Overtime Regulations – The Department of Labor proposed shrinking the overtime exemption by increasing the minimum weekly or annual salary to approximately $50,000 a year. The result would be that around 5 million more workers would qualify for time and a half overtime when they work more than 40 hours in a week.

Fight for $15 – Labor-backed pushes for higher minimum wage are expected to see more success in 2016.

Independent Contractors – More lawsuits are expected against employers who label workers as independent contractors in order to circumvent wage laws and tax withholdings.

Joint Employment Liability – Employers hiring other businesses to provide workers at their facility may find that they face liability under an expanding joint employment doctrine by which both businesses can be held liable for the appropriate payment of workers.

The report is available at http://www.workplaceclassaction.com/files/2016/01/2016-WCAR-final-thru-Ch-1-non-printable1.pdf.