The courts of the United States have seen an exponential rise in the number of wage and hour lawsuits that get filed every year, but the cause of this rise is unclear. Worker advocates allege that “wage theft” has become far too prevalent in our nation’s current economy. Many blame the recent recession, which pressured employers to cut corners in order to save costs. At the same time, employees were afraid of losing their jobs and being unable to find new employment. The result was that employers took advantage of the situation to get more work out of their employees while paying them less. It is only since the job market started to stabilize that employees have felt confident enough to file lawsuits against their employers.
Business advocates tell a different story. They assert that government officials are creating large numbers of wage and hour lawsuits, mostly so they can score points with the unions. They point to the fact that the recent wage and hour lawsuit against Schneider Logistics coincided with unions pressuring Walmart to raise wages. Although Schneider does store merchandise for Walmart, it is not owned by Walmart, and Walmart is not responsible for Schneider’s employment practices. Despite this fact, the lawyers and labor groups involved in the lawsuit against Schneider have sought to make Walmart jointly liable in the labor violations.
Business groups also claim that the onslaught of wage and hour lawsuits against McDonald’s has been coordinated with the recent movement by fast-food workers demanding a $15 minimum wage.
Lee Schreter, co-chairwoman of the wage and hour practice at Littler Mendelson, a law firm that represents employers, denied that wage theft was increasing. Instead, she argued that companies have become more vigilant about complying with state and federal labor laws, largely in response to the very public lawsuits alleging off-the-clock work that were filed against Walmart and other large companies ten years ago. She claims that, despite this fact, lawyers continue to file wage and hour lawsuits because of the potential payoff.
Worker advocates disagree. Julie Su, the state labor commissioner of California, also contends that the rise in wage theft is not only real, but that it is spreading. In the past, the immigrant workers and minimum-wage employees were the normal victims of wage theft. Now Su says that the practice of wage theft “has spread to multiple industries across many sectors. It’s affected not just minimum-wage workers, but also middle-class workers.”
California is not the only state that has seen a rise in wage and hour violations. Eric T. Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general, states that, “Cutting corners is increasingly seen as a sign of libertarianism rather than the theft that it really is.” Likewise, Michael Rubin, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the recent wage and hour lawsuit against Schneider, says that “The reason there is so much wage theft is many employers think there is little chance of getting caught.”
David Weil, the director of the federal Labor Department’s wage and hour division, says that some executives are actually urging him to increase enforcement of wage and hour violations because they are being underbid by dishonest employers.Our Chicago class action lawyers near Schaumburg and West Chicago bring class action, privacy law and individual consumer rights lawsuits. We bring suit for many types of class action lawsuits for consumer fraud issues and for unpaid overtime, junk fax, junk text messages, privacy rights violations, property damages due to pollution, false advertising and other claims. Super Lawyers has selected our Kane, DuPage and Cook County class action lawyers as among the top 5% in Illinois. Our Chicago class action attorneys only collect our fees if we win or settle your case. For a free consultation call us at our toll free number 630-333-0333 or contact us on the web by clicking here.