FLSA Lawsuits Hit Record High in 2012, Continuing Recent Trend of Sharp Growth

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A record-high 7,064 Fair Labor Standards Act suits were filed in federal court during the year-long period ending March 31, 2012, according to figures from the Federal Judicial Center, management law firm Seyfarth Shaw said July 20.

A chart tracking FLSA filings in federal courts for the past 20 years shows marked growth in federal wage and hour suits over the past decade, according to Seyfarth Shaw. The Federal Judicial Center is a congressionally created education and research agency of the federal courts.

The data show the 7,064 FLSA suits filed in the 2012 reporting period topped a previous high of 7,006 FLSA suits filed in the 2011 reporting period, which ran from March 31, 2010, through March 31, 2011, Seyfarth Shaw said.

The law firm's chart shows FLSA lawsuit filing figures beginning in the 1993 reporting year, when 1,457 FLSA suits were filed. The numbers hovered around that level until the 2003 reporting year, when 4,055 FLSA suits were filed, almost double the number filed in the 2002 reporting year, the law firm said. After remaining around the 4,000-suit level for about three years, FLSA case filings rose to 6,786 suits filed in the 2007 reporting year, representing a jump of almost 2,400 case filings from the 2006 level, the data show.

Richard Alfred, a Seyfarth Shaw partner in Boston who chairs the firm's wage and hour litigation practice, said the claims forming the bulk of the FLSA suits include alleged misclassification of employees, uncompensated “work” performed off the clock, and miscalculation of overtime pay for nonexempt workers.

The 2012 data “reinforces that these FLSA claims are still gaining momentum and that they continue to be a major, growing threat to U.S. employers,” Alfred said in a July 20 statement.

Alfred suggested four major factors explain the marked increase in federal wage and hour lawsuits: the weakness of the economy, resulting in layoffs; outdated FLSA and state law provisions that do not address changes in technology in 21st-century workplaces; the existing law's lack of clarity that makes it difficult to classify employees as exempt or nonexempt for overtime purposes; and potential for lucrative recovery by plaintiffs and their attorneys.

The data do not reflect how many of the FLSA suits also include state law wage and hour claims, and they do not account for wage and hour suits filed in state court.

By Kevin P. McGowan  

The Seyfarth Shaw chart showing FLSA suits is at http://op.bna.com/dlrcases.nsf/r?Open=kmgn-8wkkf7.

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