Earlier this year, Seyfarth offered strategic guidance for employers through our 16th Annual Workplace Class Action Litigation Report Webinar. Speakers provided an interactive analysis of 2019 class action decisions and emerging trends in 2020. The developing trends in workplace class action litigation continue to evolve, morph, and adjust to the modern realities of the American workplace. These trends require corporate counsel to plan and re-order their compliance strategies to stay ahead of and mitigate these risks and exposures throughout the year.
The Report’s author, Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., along with Lorie Almon, Ian Morrison, co-chair of our ERISA class action group, and Brett Bartlett, co-chair of the Wage & Hour group, cover this changed national landscape in workplace class action litigation. In our workplace class action webinar, highlights from the Report outline a number of key trends for employers, including:
Plaintiffs Break Record for Certification Conversion Rate: The plaintiffs’ bar achieved the highest rate ever of certification of class actions in federal courts in the Report’s 16-year history (81% for wage & hour, 65% for ERISA, and 64% for employment discrimination).
Wage & Hour Lawsuit Filings Hit Decade Low: Federal wage & hour lawsuit filings dipped for the third year in a row, and were at the lowest levels in the past decade at 6,780 (down from 7,494 in 2018) – due primarily to the Epic Systems ruling last year, which forces plaintiffs’ lawyers to often forego lawsuit filings and go straight into single plaintiff, bilateral, non-class arbitrations. Settlement Figures Double for Wage & Hour and Bottom Out for Government Enforcement: Overall settlement figures rose slightly in 2019, but more than doubled for wage & hour litigation ($449 million - up from $253 million in 2018), and fell through the floor for government enforcement cases ($57.52 million as compared to $125 million in 2018, and $485 million in 2017).
SCOTUS Rules Pro-Business: Over the past several years, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued more rulings than in previous years that have impacted the prosecution and defense of class actions and government enforcement litigation. This past year continued that trend, with several key decisions on complex employment litigation and class action issues that were arguably more pro-business than decisions in past terms. Along with the Epic Systems ruling, Lamps Plus v. Varela and Nutraceutical Corp. v. Lambert reflected a conservative, strict constructionist reading of statutes and class action procedures.
#MeToo Momentum: As it continues to gain momentum, the #MeToo movement is fueling employment litigation issues in general and workplace class action litigation in particular. Of the EEOC’s 2019 sex discrimination lawsuit filings, 28 cases included claims of sexual harassment, and 57 of the 84 Title VII lawsuits were based on gender discrimination allegations. Employers can expect that #MeToo issues will remain in the spotlight in 2020, and litigation over these issues is not apt to slow down in the coming year.
Workplace Class Action Litigation Report
From a stunning number of class action certifications to the doubling of wage & hour settlement numbers, the decade ended with some seismic shifts in the workplace class action landscape.
For the past 16 years, Seyfarth’s Workplace Class Action Litigation Report has helped corporate employers navigate this increasingly volatile landscape.
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