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Court decisions lead more employees towards wage and hour suits

As with other areas of the law, the landscape of employment law is ever-changing. Court opinions and regulatory actions always impact the real life applications of employment protection laws, particularly as debates continue over issues like employment discrimination. One influential case from last year has cast a long shadow in that area – the nationwide employment discrimination case against Wal-Mart. That case was dismissed by the United States Supreme Court for lack of cohesiveness as a class action. The result was stricter standards for filing class action lawsuits for employment discrimination.

However, this type of action is not the only option for people who suffer from mistreatment at work. Often when discrimination occurs, other types of harm happen as well, such as wage theft or employee misclassification. In fact, many employees are turning to wage and hour actions instead of seeking discrimination claims, since wage theft may be easier to prove and can often help accomplish the same end goal of being paid fairly for the work that one does.

One common type of wage theft is failing to pay workers for overtime. This can happen in a variety of ways, but often takes the form of requiring employees to complete more tasks than they reasonably can within a normal 40-hour work week, making it necessary for them to work overtime but not offering any additional pay because it is not explicitly stated as overtime work. Employees may also lose out on pay that they are entitled to if they are misclassified as salaried workers when their job duties are more in line with an hourly classification. Misclassifying workers also allows for denial of overtime pay, which can be a serious problem for working families trying to make sure all of their bills are paid on time.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “Law 2014: Within Employment Discrimination, It’s a Wage-and-Hour World,” Ashby Jones, Dec. 20, 2013.

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