CHICAGO – While wage-and-hour litigation, and related regulatory actions were on the rise in 2016, the monetary value of top employment-related class action settlements were on the decline last year, among other trends identified in the latest Workplace Class Action Litigation Report issued by the Seyfarth Shaw firm.

Now in its 13th annual edition, the report provides a look at workplace-related complex litigation, covering1,331 class action rulings on a circuit-by-circuit and state-by-state basis.

Billed as the “go to” guide for research that both business and their legal counsel can use, the report offers insight into court rulings for any business facing litigation now or in the future.

“Workplace class-action litigation has increased geometrically over the past decade,” said Gerald L. Maatman Jr, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw. “More often than not, it poses unique 'bet-the-company' risks for employers. An adverse judgment in a class action has the potential to bankrupt a business or eviscerate its market share. Likewise, the ongoing defense of a class action can drain corporate resources long before the case reaches a decision point.”

Trends in the report pointed to an increase in wage and hour decisions as well as more cases involving the U.S. Department of Labor and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The report also indicated that the monetary value of top employment-related class-action settlements were on the decline for 2016. This is after they reached an all-time high in 2014 and 2015.

“Rulings on wage and hour certification decisions in 2016 increased as compared to last year,” said Maatman. “While plaintiffs’ lawyers won more conditional certification motions than compared to prior years, employers also won decertification motions at higher rates than as compared to 2015.

"At the same time, that led to a more rapid and robust development of case law on conditional certification and decertification issues in the wage and hour context. It also reflects the simple truism that, with more wage and hour litigation case filings over the last 36 months, there have been more conditional certification and decertification decisions in that space than in any other area of workplace class action litigation.”

According to Seyfarth Shaw, the author of the report, the change in the presidential administration from Democrat to Republican will also create more challenges for litigation going into 2017 that businesses will have to navigate.

“One of the initial items both political parties will address is President Trump’s nominee to fill the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Maatman. “The fragile alliances among the conservative and liberal factions will hang in the balance, as future workplace class action rulings will pivot at least in part on the new composition of the Supreme Court once the nominee is confirmed and takes the bench sometime in 2017."

Maatman noted "changes to government priorities ... may well be stark reversals in policy that are sure to have a cascading impact on private class action litigation.

"While predictions about the future of workplace class-action litigation may cover a wide array of potential outcomes, the one sure bet is that change is inevitable and corporate America will encounter new litigation challenges," he said.

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