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Seyfarth’s 15th Annual Workplace Class Action Report Charts Stunning Rise and Fall of Over a Billion Dollars in Settlement Values as Supreme Court’s Rulings Take Center Stage

01/08/2019

Report Details Five Key Trends in Workplace Class Action Litigation for 2019

CHICAGO (January 8, 2019) – Seyfarth Shaw LLP has released its 15th annual edition of the Workplace Class Action Litigation Report, which is recognized as the nation’s most complete guide to workplace-related complex litigation. In its largest edition ever, Seyfarth analyzed a record number of 1,453 class action rulings on a circuit-by-circuit and state-by-state basis to capture key themes from 2018 and emerging litigation trends facing U.S. companies in 2019.

Over the span of its 15 years, Seyfarth’s Report has developed the industry’s most comprehensive class action database featuring analyses of 13,500 cases. Described as the “definitive source of information on employment class action litigation” and a resource that “no practitioner who deals with employment claims. . . should be without” by EPLiC Magazine, Seyfarth’s Report is the sole compendium in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to workplace class action litigation. This year’s 852-page Report is the “go to” research and resource guide for businesses and their corporate counsel facing complex litigation in the coming year.

“Fueled by the Supreme Court’s key rulings this year and the ‘Me Too’ movement, employment litigation generated unprecedented attention in 2018 -- unlike anything we have studied or seen in our Report’s 15-year history,” said Seyfarth partner and author of the Report, Gerald L. Maatman, Jr. “Overall, we saw a surprisingly sharp drop in settlement values this past year. Combined with the Supreme Court’s decision to grant employers their most powerful tool in decades to limit class action exposure in the Epic Systems ruling, 2019 presents several new dynamics for employers to navigate as we continue to keep a close watch on the shifting priorities of the White House as well.”

Expanding on these developments, the Seyfarth Report details five key employment litigation trends for corporations in 2019:

  1. SCOTUS Takes Center Stage: As predicted in Seyfarth’s 2018 Report, the U.S. Supreme Court continued to play an unusually active role in reshaping employment law and class action dynamics during the past year with several key opinions. The Epic Systems ruling, which upheld the legality of class action waivers in mandatory arbitration agreements, has proven transformative for employers and marks the most important SCOTUS decision for employers in nearly two decades. Following the appointments of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the class action playing field for employers may shift even further in 2019.
  2. Government Enforcement Litigation Hits Three-Year High But Settlement Payouts Drop Sharply: Despite the transition to a more business friendly Trump Administration, government enforcement litigation rose again to a new three-year high in 2018. The EEOC filed 199 lawsuits last year, up from 184 in 2017 but the value of the top government settlements cratered, dropping from $485.25 million in 2017 to $126.7 million in 2018.
  3. Plaintiffs’ Win Percentage Reaches Record Level: For the first time in the Report’s 15-year history, the plaintiffs’ bar posted a record high certification success rate in 2018 of 79% in the largest category of workplace litigation: wage & hour litigation. Employer efforts to successfully decertify these cases also dropped by 11% as employers won only 52% of “second stage” decertification rulings, down from 63% in 2017.
  4. Settlement Values Collapse: After reaching an all-time record high of $2.72 billion in 2017, the monetary value of the top workplace class action settlements decreased by more than 50% in 2018. Settlements sank to a five-year low of $1.32 billion in 2018, experiencing a record one-year drop of $1.4 billion. Even with a better success rate in 2018, settlements shrank across the board as plaintiffs failed to monetize class action victories at the same rate as 2017.
  5. ‘Me Too’ Movement: This past year provided the first annual look at how the Me Too movement is gaining momentum in workplace litigation. In particular, 74% of the U.S. EEOC’s Title VII filings this past year targeted sex-based discrimination, up from 65% in 2017. Also rising were the EEOC’s 2018 sex discrimination lawsuits including claims of sexual harassment, which grew to 41 lawsuits, up from 33 in 2017.

To view additional videos, charts and data from the Workplace Class Action Litigation Report please visit www.workplaceclassactionreport.com, where you may also request a copy. Available as a downloadable eBook, the Seyfarth Report is fully searchable, compatible with all major devices, allows readers to bookmark useful sections for easy future reference, and includes a number of other features, such as note-taking, highlighting and more.

About Seyfarth Shaw LLP

Seyfarth Shaw has more than 850 attorneys in 15 offices providing a broad range of legal services in the areas of labor and employment, employee benefits, litigation, corporate and real estate. Seyfarth’s clients include over 300 of the Fortune 500 companies and reflect virtually every industry and segment of the economy. A recognized leader in delivering value and innovation for legal services, Seyfarth has earned numerous accolades from a variety of highly respected industry associations, consulting firms and media.

Contacts:

Brian Kiefer, Director of Communications, (312) 460-6401, bkiefer@seyfarth.com

Martin Grego, Senior Public Relations Manager, (312) 460-6659, mgrego@seyfarth.com