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There have been a record number of wage and hour lawsuits this year, according to federal judicial caseload statistics.
So far this year there have been 7,064 lawsuits filed under the Fair Labor Standards Act (which covers wage and hour claims). In all of last year, there were only 7,006 such claims. A decade ago, only 2,035 such cases were filed, reports NBC.
The reason for the spike in lawsuits?
One can point to tough economic times, prospects of a large settlement, increased government enforcement, and employers who don't know the law.
With tough economic times and mass layoffs, more and more workers are turning to the law to seek compensation. With several high-profile wage and hour lawsuits that included judgments and settlements in the hundreds of millions of dollars, many laid off workers are realizing that they may have been short-changed too.
In addition, as workers educate themselves on wage and hour laws, the Department of Labor has also stepped up enforcement of the laws. The DOL has especially taken up the cause of low-wage workers, migrant or seasonal laborers, workers with limited English language skills, and workers who are unaware of their rights, reports NBC.
In-house counsel can help their employers avoid wage and hour lawsuits by taking a closer look at how employees are classified. The bulk of wage and hour lawsuits deal with misclassification of employees, reports NBC. In an effort to save money, many employers prefer to classify their employees as exempt -- meaning that they won't earn overtime pay.
However, the law only intends certain limited classifications of employees to be exempt. So most run-of-the-mill employees should be entitled to overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, and other benefits of being non-exempt.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.