Employment Lawsuits Increased in 2012 as Employees Get Savvy

Construction worker overtimeIn recent years, the number of wage and hour lawsuits, particularly those related to overtime pay, has increased dramatically.

According to the National Economic Research Associates report “Trends in Wage and Hour Settlements: 2012 Update,” (3/12/13; www.nera.com), the increase in the number and cost of law suits in this sector is significant, moving from an average settlement of $4.6 million in 2011 to $4.8 million in 2012. That probably sounds like quite a bit of money, but let’s examine the numbers in greater detail.

While the overall amount paid out has increased, the amount per individual has actually decreased. Average claims settled for $1,500 in 2011, but $1,300 in 2012, showing a decrease in average payment per plaintiff. It is possible that the Department of Labor and private attorneys may be pursuing more class action cases, where a big payout occurs, but each member of the class only gets a small payout.

In addition, there are simply many more people suing their employers or former employers over improper practices. More and more people are waking up to the fact that their employers don’t know what’s best for them. Individuals are now taking action instead of allowing their employer to make more money off the hard work of employees without properly compensating them.

Some factors to keep in mind include the following:

  • As an employee, you are better off when you have a lower number of plaintiffs per case – the average payout per claimant will be higher than if many claims are lumped together in a very large class action suit.
  • Learn from others’ mistakes. Make sure that your employers have properly categorized and compensated you, and that all overtime has been paid in a timely and correct manner.
  • Make your employer and company policies follow local, state, and federal laws regarding overtime and hourly work schedules. Don’t assume that your boss knows what your legal rights are.

It is possible to work with your employer to ensure you’re not being underpaid. Sometimes it’s simply a question of pointing out that things aren’t really in line with the law. If you can have a calm conversation about your rights, perhaps things will change for the better. But if your employer doesn’t respond in a similarly calm and friendly way, please contact us  for employment law help.

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