The U.S. federal courts saw a whopping 26.3 percent increase in the number of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) lawsuits filed last year over the prior fiscal year, according to statistics recently released by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Wage and hour lawsuits alleging a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) were up a significant 8.8 percent. These filings are the highest they’ve been in the past 20 years of annual statistics reported by the courts.
The increasing numbers of lawsuits brought under those two employment laws may reflect how difficult it is to understand and administer wage and hour and leave laws. The increase also may be due to the heightened awareness by workers of their rights and benefits under these laws. Regardless of the cause of the increase, the numbers suggest that it is worthwhile for employers to focus their compliance efforts in these two areas.
Self-Audit Your Pay and Leave Practices
Before you find yourself defending a lawsuit, take the time to review your payroll and FMLA policies and practices, including these often tricky issues:
- Classifying workers as exempt versus non-exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay requirements
- Calculating each non-exempt employee’s regular rate of pay and overtime rate
- Rounding time at the beginning and end of shifts
- Automatic deductions for meal periods
- Treating workers as independent contractors rather than employees
- Tracking time worked remotely or “off-the-clock”
- Providing FMLA notices within required time period
- Calculating FMLA leave for workers with irregular schedules
- Administering intermittent FMLA leave
- Not penalizing employees who have taken FMLA leave
If your self-audit reveals any irregularities, take steps to revise your policies and practices to bring them into compliance with the applicable laws. Don’t forget state and local laws that may impose additional requirements related to pay and leave administration. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to consult with your legal counsel so that you don’t become one of next year’s statistics.