CHICAGO (January 12, 2016) – Seyfarth Shaw LLP has released its 12th 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 this year’s Report, Seyfarth analyzed a record number of 1,314 class action rulings on a circuit-by-circuit and state-by-state basis to capture key themes from 2015 and emerging litigation trends facing U.S. companies in 2016.

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. In its largest edition to date, the 852-page Report is the “go to” research and resource guide for businesses and their corporate counsel facing complex litigation in the coming year.

“Exposures for corporate America have never been higher, and employers face a new wave of ‘bet-the-company’ risks that have reached a multi-billion dollar watermark for the first time,” said Seyfarth’s Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., co-chair of its Class Action Defense Group and author of the Report. “This reverses a trend that began with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Wal-Mart decision in 2011, which had made it harder for plaintiffs to convert class action filings into big settlements.”

“On the heels of a record year of settlements, and with wage & hour law compliance under the microscope of the DOL and White House in 2016, plaintiffs will be further emboldened to push their advantage and corporations should prepare for an even greater onslaught of wage & hour lawsuits 2016.”

The Seyfarth Report outlines five key trends as employers battle a dynamic landscape of “bet-the-company” risks in 2016:

  1. The U.S. Supreme Court continues to have a profound impact on class action dynamics but, by often deciding cases on narrow grounds, it has created a complex tapestry of both pro-worker and pro-business rulings through which employers must carefully thread the needle.
  2. The monetary value of employment-related class action settlements reached an all-time high in 2015: The top 10 settlements across the Report’s five core areas jumped from $1.87 billion to $2.48 billion in 2015.
  3. Beyond record settlement payouts, federal and state courts issued more favorable class certification rulings for the plaintiffs’ bar in employment related cases in 2015. Statistically, throughout the federal courts, plaintiffs won 123 class certifications versus 44 motions denied (the Report analyzed those rulings on a circuit-by-circuit and state-by-state basis).
  4. Wage & hour class actions and collective actions are a growing juggernaut for the plaintiffs’ bar with no signs of slowing and outpaced all other categories of lawsuits in 2015. FLSA filings in federal courts rose for the sixth straight year to a new record high of 8,954 cases. New scrutiny of independent contractor and joint employment relationships are expected to drive this number much higher in 2016.
  5. Government enforcement lawsuits brought by the DOL and EEOC reflected aggressive programs for both agencies: Government settlement numbers rebounded strongly, spiking from an eight-year low of $39.45 million in 2014 to $82.8 million in 2015.