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Wage and hour litigation, and in particular class and collective actions brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and companion state laws, has increased significantly in recent years. With increased frequency, litigation has been brought challenging an employee’s status as exempt from the FLSA’s requirements to pay overtime and minimum wage. Jury verdicts and settlements have fueled the trend, as employees have recovered large amounts of money – often millions of dollars – based on allegations that employers misclassified them as exempt from the FLSA’s overtime and minimum wage requirements. So too, in recent years, there has been increased litigation by employees claiming that they were forced to work “off the clock” and to miss meal and rest breaks, engage in pre-shift or post-shift work, or even work at home without regular rate of pay for the purpose of paying overtime compensation. Employees whose pay includes tips or commissions bring a special set of problems as well. As employees often attempt to band together in class and collective actions, the exposure in these cases can be extremely significant.
The new wave of wage and hour litigation has also seen an increase in lawsuits brought alleging misclassification as independent contractors, a complex issue given to the interwoven state and federal employment and tax laws. Here too, misclassification could result in class actions with individuals seeking unpaid wages, overtime, and benefits.
The WHDI serves as a nationwide network and meeting ground for top-tier practitioners to engage in professional development in what has become a highly nuanced area of the law, and also to become an established resource for employers on wage and hour matters. Each member was selected for membership in the WHDI based on his or her individual skills and experience representing management in the defense of wage and hour litigation. WHDI members also actively counsel employers on classification determinations and payroll practices so as to proactively avoid litigation, using tools such as “audits” to examine an employees’ classification as exempt or non-exempt or whether certain activities are compensable or non-compensable and whether overtime has been properly calculated.
The Institute holds periodic conferences, meetings and colloquia for purposes of advancing defense techniques, methods and approaches, and broadening its members’ role and influence in wage and hour law and policy.