There were about 9,000 federal lawsuits and thousands more state lawsuits filed over wage and hour issues in the first nine months of 2015. California employers and their employees may be surprised to learn that the number of federal cases filed has risen about 450 percent in the past 15 years. As employers face issues regarding wages, the trend of filing lawsuits is expected to continue.
The first problem is that hour and wage regulations vary greatly. They are also very complex, so it may be easy for some employers to unknowingly make mistakes. Another issue is that it is very hard for employers to defend against these types of lawsuits.
Additionally, when violations are made, whether they were mistakes or intentional, class actions are often filed, making the issue more expensive quickly. This is mostly because payment calculations and rulings are usually applied to a group of workers instead of one worker at a time.
In 2016, the Department of Labor is expected to implement a rule under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which will raise the minimum salary to be eligible for overtime exemptions from $23,660 to $50,440. This will qualify millions of employees for overtime benefits overnight and is likely to create more hour and wage filings. The misclassification of independent contractors is another issue that employers face. The Department of Labor has been aggressively pursuing this issue.
Workers who believe that their employers are not paying them in compliance with all federal and state regulations could seek payment for what they did not receive and additional compensation for damages resulting from the lost wages. An employment law attorney can describe the steps that are involved in filing a wage claim.