Workers are Filing Wage and Hour Lawsuits at a Record Pace

Experts are noting that federal wage and hour lawsuits were filed at record rates throughout 2013-2014. (According to data collected by the Washington-based Federal Judicial Center, the education and research agency for the federal court system).

While the full range of data is extensive, there are some interesting pieces of information included in the analysis that can provide a clear summary of recent filing activity related to wage and hour allegations:

8,126 federal wage and hour lawsuits were filed between the dates of 4/1/13 and 3/31/14.

This was almost a 5% increase in comparison to the year previous in which only 7,764 cases were filed

Since the year 2000, the number of cases has risen 438%

Many experts predict that the wage and hour litigation epidemic will continue and even expand in the upcoming year. The rise in the number of cases is shocking, but doesn’t even take into account the number of suits filed in state courts regarding state pay practices. The number of cases is expected to continue to accelerate in the coming months as a result of multiple factors: the tightening of federally mandated standards for class certification, the possibility of an increased minimum wage, the President’s directive to the Secretary of Labor to complete revisions for regulations on white-collar exemptions, etc.

Wage and hour issues are a common problem in many workplaces. If you feel pressured to work more hours than you are paid for or if you feel that your pay is inadequate in relation to the federal wage and hour standards, get in touch with the experienced attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik

Arguing the Professional Exemption

The Obama administration recently took a closer look at the Professional Exemption. Their scrutiny was followed by instructions to the Department of Labor to narrow the definition of the exemption. Changes are set to take effect in 2015, but Courts may begin utilizing the new definitions and strictures immediately if recent activity is any indication. 

Court cases that involve the proper classification of employees are generally the most contentious. This makes sense as the stakes are higher than cases involving potential repayment of back wages and/or penalties for overtime. They can also require complete reclassification of employees listed in the case with overtime required from that point forward. In proper classification cases, a ruling against the employer often means a complete change in the way the company runs their business.

Many employers have been cutting corners to save money on overtime. Some say it’s due to the Labor Code coming across as complex. But it’s more likely a combination of complexity allowing for loose interpretations/purposeful misinterpretations embraced during low cash flow points in a troubled economy. Employers feel they need to save the money and many are deciding to do whatever they can (legal or not) to save money on overtime costs.

A recent case involving day rate employees being classified under the labor code as professionals exempt from overtime pay seems to support the idea that the courts will consider changes to the Professional Exemption now rather than waiting until 2015. Workers in the recent case were working 12-hour shifts, sometimes 7 days a week leaving them totaling in excess of 84 hours some weeks. Their work was compensated by a day rate. Some weeks their total pay (if they worked only a couple days) was less than $455/week. Legal representation for the plaintiffs in the case argued that claiming an employee is a salaried professional, but paying them less than $455/week some weeks does not meet the requirements of the Professional Exemption’s first prong.

The case was concluded on March 27, 2014. The Federal Middle District of Pennsylvania court clerk recorded judgment for wage and hour violations in the case (3:14-cv-00042-RDM). Allegations accused the employer of failing to pay workers overtime for their hours that exceeded the full time 40. The court supported the claims. We can most likely expect to see more decisions leaning towards the new understanding of the Professional Exemption.

If you feel that you may be due past overtime or know someone who is in an untenable work environment, get in touch with the experts at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik today.