New Statistics Reveal Wage-and-Hour Cases on the Rise: What Do the Numbers Mean for Workers?

According to an analysis from the Federal Judicial Center (FJC), more workers than ever are filing wage-and-hour lawsuits. These cases are brought pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which establishes standards for private and government employees pertaining to overtime, youth employment, and minimum wage.

Many FLSA cases involve debates about whether a worker (or class of workers) should be classified as “exempt” from overtime rules. (Per the Department of Labor’s website, “Covered nonexempt workers are entitled to a minimum wage of not less than $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. Overtime pay at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay is required after 40 hours of work in a workweek.”)

The employment lawyers at Joseph & Kirschenbaum have brought many high profile FLSA matters over the past several years. However, our firm is obviously not solely responsible for the flourishing FLSA activity!

In fact, per the FJC analysis, the number of wage-and-hour lawsuits has been rising nearly continuously for the last 25 years. Check out these statistics that show the dramatic increase —

•    In 1990, there were only 1,257 wage-and-hour cases filed throughout the country.
•    By 2007, the annual number had leapt to 6,786 cases.
•    In 2014, that number jumped again to 8,126.

Disaffected, underpaid and abused restaurant and hospitality industry workers have brought a substantial number of the recent cases – perhaps because these industries often support or abet toxic employment cultures.

What accounts for the uptick in cases?

One theory suggests that both the states and the federal government have become more dialed into wage-and-hour violations. Another school of thought argues that workers themselves have become increasingly aware of their legal rights for minimum wage and overtime.

New regulations on white-collar exemptions from overtime rules may spur yet another spasm of legal activity. Workers paid a salary, as opposed to an hourly wage, are not automatically exempt. Overtime exemptions depend on three key elements: salary basis, salary level, and job duties.

For insight into your potential FLSA case, call the experienced wage and hour attorneys at Joseph & Kirschenbaum for a free intake evaluation at (212) 688-5640, or email info@jhllp.com.